Defining Your Environment: What’s the Current Culture in Your Home?

You probably remember the first time you learned about sex. Maybe it was a series of strange metaphors meddled with a list of scientific facts from your parents. Maybe an older sibling or kid on the playground told you all about it. Maybe it was a class in school you hoped would be over soon. You may not realize it, but the things that first taught you about sex shaped a lot of your view of it today. The home you grew up in, whether your parents ever talked to you about it or not, sent you a message about sex. The same is true for your kids.

We’ve found that there are three different environments people are typically raised in as far as learning about sex and sexuality. Each one sends a message to your children about sex, regardless of if you’re actually trying to communicate that message or not. Recognizing the environment you were raised in as well as the one you’re creating for your kids is an important step in creating a culture of healthy sexuality in the home. Ideally you are already creating a healthy environment for your children to learn about sex, but if not, it’s not too late to start.

Here are the three environments we’ve found:

 

1. Silent Environment

Some parents are so afraid of saying the wrong thing about sex or introducing the topic too soon that they never introduce the topic at all. Children may ask questions, but those are skillfully avoided or shamed for being asked. The door to learning about sex is not just closed, it’s locked shut and someone threw away the key. The mistake here is that not telling your kids anything about sex still sends them a message about sex. It sends them the message that sex is either too private or too sacred to talk about or it’s not overly important. Since the people in their life that are supposed to be helping them navigate the difficult topics are not talking about this one, they have to figure things out on their own.

The thing is, your child will be introduced to sex one way or another. If you don’t teach them how to sort through the messages they receive about sex, then they will not know what to believe. Many parents assume that their children will learn about sex in school if they don’t teach them, but school is not the only place that talks about sex. Television, movies, music, books, kids on the playground, and the internet are just a few of the other places your kids can learn about sex. If you’re not the one shaping their view on it, then there’s a good chance these other things are.

 

2. Saturated Environment

Some parents figure sex is just a part of life, and there’s no use trying to avoid all the places that talk about it, so they leave the door wide open. Their children learn about sex from movies, TV shows, music, and other types of media. They’re completely saturated with messages about sex and sexuality. It becomes casual and familiar. It might even reach the point where children think, “What more is there to learn? I already know it all. I’ve seen it, been around it, had my own experiences, what else do I need to know?” Since it’s everywhere, they become comfortable with it. On the upside, there’s no shame, blame, or guilt, but on the downside, sex loses its significance, its sacredness.

The message this environment sends is that sex is nothing more than a physical experience. People should be able to have sexual encounters and walk away. They can give that part of themselves away without any commitment, and then just move on with life. It’s true that we can’t protect our children from every single image or video or piece of media that contains a message about sex. However, we can teach them the truth about it. If we give them a healthy perspective, it will act as a lens they can view the rest of the world through.

 

3. Conflicted Environment

Some parents know they’re supposed to talk to their children about sex but are unsure how to address it, so they open the door for a moment and then it shut it quickly before things get too crazy. They may have one talk, maybe two, but then that’s it. No more conversations. Children aren’t welcome to ask questions because they shouldn’t be wanting to know anything about sex anyway. Sex remains a huge mystery, that is until the wedding night. On the wedding night, they will all of a sudden be able to know everything there is to know about sex, but not a moment before.  It sends the message that sex has a value within marriage, but it is full of shame outside of marriage.

The problem with this environment is it shames children for being curious about something that is actually very normal for them to be curious about. It’s unfair to expect them not to wonder about sex or about their bodies or even about the opposite gender. Although this environment celebrates virginity and married-sex, it doesn’t fully translate the reality of sex. A good sex life within marriage takes time to grow into, and it starts with having a healthy view on sexuality.

 

So what does a healthy environment look like?

A healthy environment is one where our children are able to open the door and look in. Not with shame, not with the guilt that comes when they feel they’ve done something wrong, but with the freedom to take a healthy glimpse inside for the sake of understanding. We want our children to carry the vision of God’s original design for sex. How did God intend for things to be in the garden? Before sin entered the world, before all the perversions came in, what was God’s original idea? If we create a solid foundation for them, they will be able to filter everything else they learn about sex through the lens of God’s design. They will be able to separate truth from lies and also have a place to bring their questions and find out more information when they need to. 

For more information on creating a healthy environment for sexuality in your home, sign up for our parenting email list or our new Parenting Course.

 

HAVILAH CUNNINGTON HAS BEEN IN FULL-TIME MINISTRY FOR TWENTY YEARS TRAVELING THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA AND MEXICO SPEAKING AT CONFERENCES, CHURCHES, CAMPS, AND RETREATS. HAVILAH BELIEVES TODAY IS THE CHURCH’S FINEST HOUR IF WE CHOOSE TO LOVE WITH PASSION, PURPOSE, AND WALK IN POWER. PRIOR TO SERVING AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MORAL REVOLUTION FOR FIVE YEARS, HAVILAH WAS ON STAFF AT THE ROCK OF ROSEVILLE CHURCH FOR FIFTEEN YEARS. HAVILAH AND HER HUSBAND, BEN, RESIDE IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA WITH THEIR FOUR YOUNG SONS- JUDAH, HUDSON, GRAYSON, AND BECKHAM. 

 

WEBSITE: HAVILAHCUNNINGTON.COM AND TRUTHTOTABLE.COM
FACEBOOK: FACEBOOK.COM/MRSHAVILAH
INSTAGRAM: @HAVILAHCUNNINGTON 

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Porn

I was staring at the screen my eyes fixated, glued, to what I was seeing. What was happening? Why weren’t people wearing any clothes? I didn’t understand. Why were people touching each other like that and why on earth did my body feel so weird? These were the questions I had as an eleven-year-old girl sitting in front of the TV at my new friend’s house. Even at a young age, I could feel the pull between my flesh and my spirit. I needed to get up, I needed to look away. Why couldn’t I look away?! Finally, my body could bear it no longer. I got up and headed for the bathroom, shame, fear, and confusion latching onto me with every step I took. I wanted to hide. I wanted someone to rescue me. I wanted to go home.

What had happened, you ask? I had just been introduced to sex.

On that day, as a little girl, things were awoken in me that should have never been awoken. I had no grid for what I had seen and the images played out on screen would continue to linger in my thoughts and revisit me daily. They consumed me, following me into my teenage years festering into an addiction that would end up meandering its way into every area of my life. It was a struggle that would inevitably engulf me in shame for the next 18 years.

 

Pornography is like fire, you touch it once and it will burn. It is as addictive as cocaine and it will leave an imprint on your life.

 

By the time I hit my early 20’s, insecurity had well and truly set in. I battled with my weight all through school, and while I had lost most of it, in my eyes I was still the overweight girl who was bullied constantly. I craved to be seen, to be accepted and to be loved. I had endured some horrendous break-ups, and I was hurting and longing for intimacy. When the words of the men who had told me I wasn’t good enough lingered or when I was feeling unattractive and lonely, I would turn to the only comfort I knew: pornography, erotic novels, in particular, being my ‘medication’ of choice. It was the only thing I knew to numb the pain of how I was feeling. Because in that brief moment, I was wanted, I was comforted, I was accepted, and I was beautiful. Then, in a split second, it would be over. Pleasure turned into guilt, comfort into shame, and beauty into disgust. Wave after wave of condemnation would crash over me and separate me from the one I loved most, Jesus. In my eyes I had failed, I was dirty, and I so desperately wanted to hide.  

 

Shame: A painful feeling of humiliation caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

 

One thing  I am clear of is that the enemy is a deceptive liar. He will say and do anything to make us question who we are and Whose we are. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid. One day they were walking with God and the next they were hiding, ashamed of their nakedness, sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. Knowing the heart of the Father, I can imagine how much He would have loved being with them. I can picture Him with them, side by side walking the garden paths together, showing them all He had created. Loving them. Talking with them. Their presence warming His heart and His desire to spend time with them so great that when He lost sight of them He called out, “Adam, Eve, where are you?” Then from the distance, He hears these words:  “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). The next words out of God’s mouth are words that pierce my heart at its very core…

“Who told you that you were naked?”

 

Shame is a name and it speaks.

 

In my church environment, pornography was often deemed a male issue and sex, in general, was rarely spoken about. I felt so alone and this added to the shame I felt. I found myself withdrawing from the Lord for He had done so much for me and yet I continued to fall into sin again, and again and again. It was a vicious cycle, and I just couldn’t look at Him. However, the Lord is Redeemer and He still met me. He saw me and in all my pain and shame, He knelt down and so tenderly embraced me, encapsulating me with a blanket of His love.  

I remember the night so clearly…

On a balmy summer’s eve on holiday in Hawaii with friends, the Lord prompted me to begin writing about my struggle. At first, I was hesitant, but as I began to write, the chains began falling off. With every word, I was getting free. I was then able to share my struggle with a trusted friend. My sin was coming into the light and darkness was losing its sting. The Lord began opening my eyes to who I am as not only a woman but most importantly, as His daughter. He cleansed me and washed me with His grace and touched me in the deepest parts of my pain. Pornography was simply a temporary counterfeit solution, a band-aid to a bigger problem. A problem the Lord so desperately wanted to meet me in. A problem He died for.

 

But God…. He set me free.

 

If you are struggling in this area, first know that you are not your sin. You are loved and you are not alone. My greatest piece of advice would be to find someone you trust, be vulnerable and bring that which has been hidden into the light. Whether breakthrough is instantaneous or a process, it still requires stewarding. I placed firm boundaries on what I allowed my eyes to see and threw out every book and movie with sexual content. I broke off unhealthy relationships and shared honestly with key people in regards to how I was doing. If I stumbled, they knew about it. During this time, I also began a process with the Lord in learning how to love myself well. I saw a spirit-filled Christian counselor who supported me as I overcame underlying trauma and together, we developed strategies to meet my needs in a healthy way.

 

Freedom… it’s a beautiful thing.

 

To wake up each day knowing I am no longer bound by sin has been life-changing. In my brokenness, He covered me, and now in Him, I am truly alive. I am no longer a slave but a free woman, healthy and wholeheartedly pursuing the One who lay on a cross not just for me, but for you too.  A man named Jesus is yearning to break every bondage in your life and show you who you are – His son and His daughter. He wants to reach into the crevasse of your heart and meet the needs that you have been letting sin meet for so long, to change mindsets, heal the painful wounds and to take you from slavery into all He has promised.

Freedom is knocking at the door of your heart and His arms are open and ready.

Will you walk into them?

 

-Carol, 33, Queensland, AU


Crushing the High Stakes: A Challenge for Guys

If you read my last post, you’ll know I’m pretty passionate about relationships and particularly about seeing our Christian dating culture change from “high stakes” to a healthy pursuit of connection. Marriage is high stakes. Engagement is high stakes. A coffee date? Not so much. But when I look around, I see men and women tied up in knots about this simple step towards connection. This week I want to challenge the guys. Are you thinking too hard about getting to know someone?

Men, I know the thing you hear more often than not when it comes to this subject is “grow a pair.” And sure, no man gets to win the heart of a lady by being a coward. But that’s not what I want to challenge you on today. I believe that when it’s time to pursue, you’ll do it. I love the picture of Jesus coming out of heaven to pursue his earthly bride. This is what you’re called to, men. There is something in the heart of every lady that wants to see her value through your eyes. You were made to pursue. At the right time, this will awaken in you. But that moment is very rarely (if ever) before you actually know that person, or have built any connection. A high stakes dating culture tells us we have to have all the information before we take a step towards someone. A healthy dating culture tells us that everything we need to know can only be found inside connection, so there’s not much point trying to figure it out from a distance. Spend some time together. See if you like being together. All the judgments we make from the sidelines are assumptions. When it comes to relationships, what you need to know is not more about her. It’s more about who you are together.

If only we could move from high stakes to “why not?”. “Why not?” opens us up to friendship. It builds connection slowly, step by step. “Why not?” lowers the stakes. Yet it does require something of you. To keep stakes low means keeping them low in your mind and emotions as well as your willingness to say “yes” to connection. It means trusting yourself to communicate clearly. Is there a risk she will jump ahead? Sure. But that’s not on you. If we’re going to change this culture, it means being courageous enough to lead the way, fully confident in our ability to navigate each stage of relationship.

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit weird to be full-on pursuing with grand romantic gestures in the early dating phase. These are often the scenarios that end in tears because the passion was built outside of actual connection. True pursuit kicks in later when relational and emotional connection has been built. Pursuit should reflect the level of commitment you’re willing to make and what the relationship can handle. You get there with a simple first step: “Why not?”.

So men, take the pressure off. Create space for friendship to grow. Lead the way in crushing our high stakes dating culture.

 

BEN IS A HUSBAND, FATHER, PASTOR, AND SON. HE SPENT 11 YEARS FARMING IN AUSTRALIA BEFORE MOVING WITH HIS WIFE JO AND THEIR THREE KIDS TO REDDING, CALIFORNIA TO PURSUE HIS PASSION FOR REVIVAL. HE IS A PASTOR AT BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY AND HAS DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO RELEASING THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE EARTH AND EQUIPPING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.
WEBSITE: BENPWILSON.COM
FACEBOOK: BEN P. WILSON
INSTAGRAM: @BENWILS 

What’s With Our High Stakes Dating Culture?

During my experience as a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with a lot of people in really healthy marriages. I’ve realized that no matter how they met, what they’ve walked through, the one thing that makes a marriage work is the foundation of great connection. My wife and I got married because we just couldn’t do without each other. I call it friendship on fire. But how do we get the “fire” if we won’t do the friendship? As I watch dating culture around me, I wonder if “finding the one” has become so “high stakes” that everyone is too scared to take steps towards simple friendship, which is where it all starts.

 

Are you open to connection?

My wife and I like to play dating matchmakers. We suggest all kinds of great people to our single friends, but I’m often surprised at how quickly our suggestions are shot down with a flat out “no way.” “But you haven’t even met them!” I argue. Making a decision about pursuing someone with no relational connection is counter-intuitive. You simply don’t have the information needed to make that call.

Relational connection in its simplest form is just getting to know someone. If a decision is being made about someone without getting to know them, it means it’s being made based on a few details that are likely minor, and probably external, like how they look, what their bank balance is, or where they work. Maybe these questions are important, but when all is said and done, the only question that really needs answering is whether or not you like being with that person.  Last I checked, you can’t answer this question without first getting to know them. The truth is, inside of connection, all those things that seem important start to shift. As you give your life to another, what matters to them starts to matter to you. We have things in the wrong order if we’re worried about all the details before we even know if we connect.

 

Have the courage to be different

Let’s be honest. In our culture, someone suggests a coffee date and the assumption is saying “yes” means agreeing to a trajectory towards marriage. It’s time to change this by choosing to lower the stakes. All it takes is deciding to take the first step, “I will get to know you,” and honestly communicating that connection is your goal. If we can do this, there is no need to get out “the list,” compare callings, or seek the word of the Lord before stepping out the door. We then create a space for friendships to develop.

It’s time to make connection the simple goal again. I know it’s a vulnerable area. I know that fear easily creeps in and dating presses all the buttons. But it’s time to take a stand against a “high stakes” culture and dare to connect. Culture changes when brave people decide to do things differently. Fight for friendship, and I’ll be praying it gets set on fire!

Originally published on benpwilson.com.

 

BEN IS A HUSBAND, FATHER, PASTOR, AND SON. HE SPENT 11 YEARS FARMING IN AUSTRALIA BEFORE MOVING WITH HIS WIFE JO AND THEIR THREE KIDS TO REDDING, CALIFORNIA TO PURSUE HIS PASSION FOR REVIVAL. HE IS A PASTOR AT BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY AND HAS DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO RELEASING THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE EARTH AND EQUIPPING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.
WEBSITE: BENPWILSON.COM
FACEBOOK: BEN P. WILSON
INSTAGRAM: @BENWILS 

 

 

 


Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Questions

We collected questions from our previous blog posts in this series: Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Perspective and Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Tools and answered them below:


Q: A pastor and marriage counselor told me that when the woman is sexually experienced and the man is not, it can happen that she is not sexually satisfied with her husband and eventually finds her way back to her past partners when things go bad. What practical ways can I communicate with her in the future to know where she is at without creating an awkward or tense situation?


A: This is a common fear for couples. I definitely struggled with that during a season in my own process. I want to preface that I am not a counselor, but I can share what helped me. I had to choose to trust. Trust can be a challenging thing to give. Most often it is earned and is more subconscious than we realize. It might be helpful for you to reflect on if you truly trust him/her. If the answer is no, then you have an important conversation to have. Lacking trust leads to jealousy, anger, malice… I think you see where I am going. None of those things are fruit of the spirit or qualities of love. Lack of trust robs our ability to love and be loved. It may be important for you to uncover that.

I can’t directly speak to how common it is for someone to cheat that is sexually experienced, but I would encourage you to focus on trusting God’s hand in your marriage more than you do other people’s situations. Create a healthy stream of communication between the two of you. You have to be able to ask each other questions that may feel offensive. The more open you can be about your feelings throughout your marriage, the more freedom you will both live in. Find a way to express your insecurities to each other and talk in your relationship without it being offensive. Your goal is for your marriage to be the safest place for you to talk about your thoughts and feelings.

 


Q: I am getting married soon. Both of us are born again and on fire for Jesus. We are mutually madly in love. I have one difficulty. I have saved myself 100% but my fiancé hasn’t. He/she regrets it immensely and we are healing together. How do I go to our honeymoon night when in my head I am insecure about being naked and vulnerable with someone “experienced”? How do I get past feeling like I am just another option/fix when he/she starts becoming sensual (kissing)? Especially if he/she still struggles once in a while with addiction relapses?


A: My personal belief is that sex within God’s design for marriage and love is very different than the experience outside of His design. I have no scientific or even experiential proof of this, but we all need to be able to trust our spouse. The situation that concerns me is that you said they still struggle once in a while. That means there is still internal work that needs to be done in them. Current sin and struggles can be very damaging and marriage DOES NOT fix these things, nor does it fix sexual addiction.

A friend of mine says, “In relationships, two halves don’t make a whole.” I would encourage you guys to seek complete healing from the current struggles. As for you, it’s important for you to be able to trust your spouse. You need to have as many conversations as you can so that your heart knows they will be faithful. Living in fear of failure does not align us with who we are called to be. God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.

 


Q: For almost 3 years now, I am not able to get over my partner’s past, even though his/her past isn’t that ‘bad’ at all…I have tried almost everything, spoken to a counselor, gone to seminars about emotional healing… Do you think the point is reached where I just need to break up with him/her? It feels like I missed something in my own past and want to have other partners now as well or be sexually active…


A: First of all, I can’t tell you what you should do with your relationships, you need to hear the Holy Spirit on that one. I would say it’s important that you ask yourself if you feel he/she has been fully honest with you. I don’t encourage people to brush over things. If you believe they have been honest and you still can’t forgive him/her then yes, I would say you need to seek God and ask Him to give you a revelation of how He sees him/her.

In regards to you wanting to become sexually active, I can’t speak to the pain it causes because I haven’t experienced that, but I can speak to the freedom it secures. Our marriage has had its fair share of ups and downs, many of them in regards to sex, but the hardest thing has been watching my wife go through pain as she seeks healing from past experiences. Make no mistake, “casually” engaging in sexuality has consequences. My wife has experienced powerful healing but not without significant intentionality. She often says, “What took me moments to get into took me years to get out of.”

On the other side of the coin, my lack of sexual experience before marriage has given me the freedom to give her the space to find her own freedom. I have never once wished I was more sexually active before marriage. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. We both often find ourselves thankful that God covered me the way He did because it has been a gift to us both. Be careful not to allow broken thinking to begin to define your beliefs. Rely on the Bible and what you know to be true. Be the best, healthiest version of yourself so you can give your spouse the strength they need to find freedom.

 


QHow do I NOT compare myself to his exes?


A: First of all, this is a common challenge for people regardless of their belief system. When you are marrying someone with a sexual past, it is pretty common to wonder if they compare you to past relationships or even compare ourselves to the other people. I have been guilty of doing this from time to time. I will just give you what worked for me and hopefully it will be helpful. I made the choice to trust what I see and experience. What I mean by this is, I am not going to project problems onto our relationship. It’s so easy to just let our minds run with doubt, fear, comparison and so many other negative thinking patterns.

In our relationship, if I sense or experience something with my wife, I talk about it with her. Then I take her answer at face value. I don’t let my mind add other meanings to things, unless the Holy Spirit highlights something to dig into deeper. This can be a challenging thing to do, but it builds trust.

In regards to you not comparing yourself to their ex, you need to trust you are enough. I would give you this advice in general and it especially applies to your relationship. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your value, talk with your partner about the value you bring to the relationship, try to understand it’s not a competition of who was the better boyfriend or girlfriend. Living your life striving to be better than someone else will crush you because you will lose sight of who you are.

 


Q: I’ve been struggling with the hurt. I assume that women and men deal differently with this, but I’ve been challenged with haunting images that drive me to tears on a weekly basis. Would you say that I still need some processing to do if that is the case? What would you say is a healthy way of dealing with it and a healthy perspective on what happened? How do we reconcile that this person’s body was supposed to belong to us with everything being made new in Christ and His restoration in our lives?


A: I completely understand where you are coming from. I want to be clear on this: it is totally normal for it to hurt. I fully believe 1 Corinthians 7:4: when we become married, our bodies are not our own but given to each other which is why we feel pain when our spouse didn’t wait. These feelings are valid and need to be addressed, but the conversations need to lead to forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t say, “This doesn’t hurt, or it’s okay.” Forgiveness says, “that hurt but I forgive you and choose not to hold it against you.” Take time to process what you are feeling. Don’t brush over how their past makes you feel because then it will come back like a volcano later. Rather, take it to the Lord and your partner. The main key here is to make sure you come to a place of resolution. It’s human nature to experience pain, but I don’t believe we were meant to live in pain for extended periods of time. Talk about it, go to counseling, talk to a pastor, whatever you need to do for as long as it takes but make sure you come to a place of resolution and don’t pick the pain back up again.

 


Q: I myself had a similar background to you, growing up a Christian and saving myself for marriage. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and always thought I would marry a pure virgin like myself. In some ways, I feel the emphasis on purity in Christian culture created virginity to be an idol for me. So much so that I also considered if I wanted to marry my wife when I learned during dating that she had been sexually active with multiple people before finding Jesus at 17. I guess my question for you is whether you also linked your struggle with forgiving your spouse to what you were taught growing up as a Christian around pure = virgin?


A: I agree in theory with what you are saying. I think that the way the church teaches purity can turn it into an idol (btw I love the way you put that, I’m going to steal it!) However, the church can never stop teaching the truth, and I believe this truth to be a godly goal. Where we fail is thinking that virginity is purity rather than a fruit of purity. Purity is given by God, not earned. Virginity is a fruit of it, just as not looking at porn is fruit, or taking thoughts captive, etc. I wouldn’t change what was taught to me, but every lesson must be filtered through the Holy Spirit.

Here is the much bigger question you should ask yourself: do you trust your wife? I trust my wife. She has always been open with me. She doesn’t hide her feelings and didn’t try to cover up her past. I chose not to make her relive it. We Christians really struggle with our view of “fairness.”

If you do, in fact, trust your wife because she has been honest with you, then you have to ask yourself if you view yourself as more holy than she is because of your choices. Many Christians might not consciously realize it, but we take too much pride in our personal accomplishments rather than boasting in Christ. Matt 20:1-16 might be of some help to you. You and I are the workers that started in the morning. Our wives are workers that started at lunchtime. We all get paid the same wage: forgiveness, wholeness, purity, joy and ultimately heaven. Our problem as lifelong Christians can be the feeling that we should get paid more even though it’s only by the cross that we even have access to God.

In conclusion, I think you are right as to where the struggle comes from. I would encourage you to ask Jesus to help you really understand the cross because I believe that will help you see your righteousness from the right perspective.

 


Q: I’m currently in a relationship with someone who has been married before. He married young and his wife left him just a couple of years later. We got together almost 1.5 years ago and I believe we are a great match and we love each other very much. However, sometimes his past just bugs me. The part that is still difficult for me is that he was married to someone else. It was a conscious choice, a promise to another woman. When did you know you truly forgave her (and could move forward)? Do you have extra tips for a situation when your partner has been married before?


A: God’s design for marriage is that it lasts forever, so there are a lot of very real things to process and work through as a result of divorce. I would say that it’s completely normal to need to process through your partner’s past relationship, considering the level of intimacy he has shared with another person. I think it’s important that you not move forward towards marriage until his intimate past (sexual, emotional & spiritual) doesn’t feel threatening, scary, or regrettable to you.

That said, I’d try to keep in mind that inside of marriage, sexual intimacy is not only permissible, it is healthy! The fact that he had a sexual relationship with his first wife is actually good and right because it was in the context of marriage. It might be helpful to keep in mind that neither he nor his ex-wife ever did anything wrong by having sex inside of their marriage, and therefore I don’t think there’s anything to forgive. While it can be painful to think about your partner sharing that level of intimacy with another woman, I do not think that forgiveness is the key to breakthrough. I think the keys to breakthrough here include the following: ensuring that your identity is firmly established in Christ and ensuring that your relationship is firmly established in a foundation of trust.

Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of trust, and over time trust is built through repeated success. As you’re dating someone and considering marriage, you do not want to move the intimacy or commitment beyond your level of shared trust with one another. So it would be great for you to evaluate how much you trust that your boyfriend’s healing journey is complete! If you trust that he has walked through healing with accountability and vulnerability, if you trust that his heart is to love you and choose you above all others, and if you trust that his desire is for you alone, then he’s probably in a good place to consider marriage. If, despite trusting him in all those areas, you still have pain or fear surrounding the fact that he’s been sexually intimate before, I’d be willing to say that the issue is probably on your end and might have something to do with insecurity and fear… both are issues of identity.

Second marriages can be tough because of the intricate dynamics that you seem well aware of! My biggest piece of advice to people navigating the possibility of marriage after divorce is to invite wise counsel into your relationship and get lots of good input from people you trust to help you make great decisions out of love!


FAQ: Giving Him a Chance

Question #1: How can I best handle “getting to know you” stage with a guy if he’s a great person, but more into me than I am into him? I want to give him a chance, but I still want to walk in my integrity and stay heart-centered.


 

This can be a tricky thing to navigate simply because it’s not always easy to tell how long to wait for attraction to grow, and of course you want to honor the person you’re getting to know. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to give someone a chance:

 

1. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself

The first thing I would say is to not put any unnecessary pressure on yourself to have everything figured out. You don’t have to know you’re going to marry him. You don’t even have to know if you have feelings for him. The reason you’re getting to know him is to figure these things out. Communicate with him and be honest about where you’re at, but don’t feel like you have to have all the answers yet.

 

2. Communicate

A lot of times we’re afraid to say yes to a date because we feel like we’re communicating, “Yes, I am absolutely interested in you,” when this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead of being afraid of sending the wrong signal, it’s a good idea to simply tell the other person where you’re at. You can say, “Hey, I’m not sure where my feelings are yet, but I would love to get to know you a little better,” or something along those lines. Be honest about where you’re at and then they will better know where to put their expectations.  

 

3. Ask yourself good questions

If it’s your first date, don’t ask yourself, “Is this my husband?” That is a lot of pressure and something a lot of people don’t figure out until they’ve been dating for a long while. Ask yourself questions that are appropriate for the level you’re at. For the first few dates, you can ask yourself, “Am I attracted to this person? Can I be friends with them? Do we have fun together? Do we have similar values? Do they love the Lord?” You might even ask, “Am I more attracted to them than I was before we went on this date?” Further down the road, you can start to ask the deeper questions.

 

4. Stay aware of your feelings

Part of the reason to ask yourself good questions is it helps you to stay aware of your feelings. If your feelings are not progressing after a few dates, then it’s probably time to let things go. Attraction and chemistry with someone else is not something you can force. Sometimes a person can seem like a really great option on paper, but the feelings just aren’t there and that’s okay. Trust that God has designed you to develop strong feelings for the person you’re ultimately going to end up with. He will not ask you to sign up for a marriage you have no desire to be in. In fact, that would be unfair to the other person because they deserve someone who cares deeply for them and wants to be with them.

 


Question #2: “My problem is I don’t actually know how to stay friends with someone who has feelings for me without it being awkward OR without feeling like I’m leading him on.”


It can definitely be a tough thing to navigate when a friend starts having feelings beyond friendship. I think it’s great you are wanting to find a way to still be friends instead of automatically cutting relationship with that person.

The truth is, you may have some awkward moments. The other truth is, this doesn’t have to be a big deal. Don’t let awkward moments (or the fear of awkward moments) keep you from being a friend or being kind and considerate towards someone. You’re a person and they’re a person, and avoiding them doesn’t make things any less awkward.

As for feeling like you’re leading him on, you can set certain boundaries that will help keep the lines clear between friendship and something more. Start by having a conversation (we call this a DTR- define the relationship) where you clearly communicate where you’re at if you haven’t already. Then you can ask him what he needs from you as a friend to make things easier on him and for him to not feel like you’re leading him on. Depending on the situation, it might actually be best for you to not be close friends anymore, and that is tough, but it’s also okay if that’s what he needs. 

The key is to value your relationships with people enough to communicate with them instead of just avoiding them or cutting them off. Communication calms things down and takes away the fear of leading someone on or giving them the wrong signal. It’s not always easy and there may be some awkward moments, but good communication is a tool that will help you take care of yourself and your relationships now and as you move forward in life.


FAQ: When Do I Let Go?

Question: How/when do you let go (in your heart) of a friendship/relationship that you feel is going nowhere, but you are enjoying the attention from?


The Team’s Answer:

Once you know your relationship is going nowhere and you’re just in it because you’re enjoying the attention, it’s time to let it go. The second your heart is no longer in it and you’re just enjoying the benefits of someone liking you, you’re using them to fill a need that is actually unfair and unkind to ask them to fill. Think about if the roles were switched and you were the one who really liked someone but that person just liked getting attention from you. You would probably want them to end things. It would be unfair of them to keep you around to fill a need.

As far as how to let go, it starts with having a conversation with the other person. Be kind and gracious, but clearly communicate where you’re at and let them know you don’t see the relationship going anywhere. As far as how to let it go in your heart after you’ve ended it, we’ll go into that a little more in-depth in the next question. 

The other thing you want to do is address the deeper need that person was meeting in you. If you’re enjoying attention from them, then how can you get that need met in a healthy way? Do you need to make time to connect deeply with a close friend? Do you need to call a family member who’s close to you? Do you need to spend time with the Lord and ask Him to meet that need in you? God has a lot of great thoughts about us, and it’s important that we go to Him and ask Him to tell us who we are. He gives us our identity and satisfies the deep places in us that man cannot fill.

For more information on how to get your needs met in a healthy way, look at Getting Our Needs Met in a Healthy Way.

 


Question: How do you break off attachments once you end a relationship?


Once you end a relationship, there are a few things you can do to help you get through the breakup.

First of all, think about what’s going to be easier in the long run. Right now, it would probably be easier to keep in contact with that person, text them regularly, and let them continue to meet emotional needs, but in the long run, that will not be easier and will probably just prolong the pain. What’s going to make things easier six months from now? Or a year from now? Or when this person starts dating someone else? This is why in most cases, like we mentioned above, we are advocates for a clean break.

A clean break allows you to feel the emotions, work through the pain, and heal the hurt so ultimately you can move forward. Surround yourself with good friends and family to offer you the support, comfort, and connection you need as you heal. Journal or talk to God or do whatever you need to do to process the pain. Release that person to God and ask God to release you from them as well as break off any emotional ties or physical ties you may have made with them.

Lastly, remind yourself of who God says you are. It hurts when a relationship ends, and sometimes it can send us down a road of introspection and asking why or what’s wrong with us, but this person and this moment don’t get to define who you are. God is the one who gets to define who you are because He created you and knows you. He loves you, and no matter what it feels like right now, He has beautiful plans for your future.

To read more about moving on, check out How to Move On.


Who Told You?

You know that feeling that comes when you’re about to have people over and you realize the house is a disaster? I’m convinced my family gets more accomplished in a thirty-minute power clean (insert: freak out because they’re on their way over) than we do in an entire month. Pick up all the toys, start the dishwasher, scrub the toilets, light some candles and voila! It doesn’t look like a zoo full of animals live here! Most of the time, that also includes us stuffing all of the “I don’t want to deal with that right now” things and the “we definitely don’t want anyone to see that” stuff in a room and close the door. We call it the “off-limits” room.

We do the same thing with our lives. We show up to church on a Sunday morning all put together or we post our selfies on social media of the moments we’re eager to share and have people see and “like”. But the mess, we keep locked up in a room we won’t let anyone into. Sometimes the people closest to us don’t even know what’s behind the door. We refuse to let anyone in, even Jesus. We pretend He can’t see what we’re hiding. It reminds me of Adam and Eve in the garden “hiding” from God.

 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:1-8

 

When they take that bite of the apple and realize they are naked, shame enters the scene. Immediately shame tells us to hide. Shame thrives off of secrecy. Darkness is the territory where the devil torments us. We have to let the light in and watch the shadows disappear and the torment cease. We have to stop hiding our past mistakes or current struggles in order to find the freedom and wholeness we were meant to walk in.

When you continue reading from the story of the very beginning, Adam says how he was afraid so he hid. The first words of God’s response are three words that ring in my ear on the regular:


“Who told you…?”


 

“He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:10-13).

 

When you are hiding in shame or overcome with fear, pause and let your Father ask you, “Who told you…” Who told you that you were a failure? Who told you that you had to do that? Who told you that you’re too far gone? Who told you that you were a mistake? Who told you that you were worthless? Who told you that you cannot change?

Before the truth can set you free, you must realize which lies are holding you hostage. Find the source of the lies, find the entry point and let your Father walk back into the beginning and say, “Who told you?” We don’t want to live our lives based on what the father of lies has led us to believe, but we want to follow our heavenly Father to the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

When we talk specifically about our sexual struggles– whether it be soul ties, porn addiction, flashbacks that aren’t from Friday but from past trauma and abuse, the inability to see our worth and value, body shaming, whatever it may be… it is important we ask God to take us back to the beginning. We need to find the introduction of the lies. Where did this start? When did this begin? Often we find we are not responsible for how it started, but we are responsible for how it ends. With the love of the Father, the power of the cross and the friendship of the Holy Spirit, we can rewrite our stories, change the narrative, and find a happy ending.

Your past does not have to dictate your future.

Ask yourself today, does my past hold unwarranted power over my present? If your answer is an obvious “YES!”, today is the day to start the process. If your answer is, “ugh, maybe, I think so,” that’s where you start. Be kind to yourself, ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you and show you where to begin. We don’t have to let the sickness from our past feed into our present. The dark room where we’ve tried to hide everything won’t work forever. Let the light in, you won’t regret it.

Stay tuned for the blog “The Process is Part of the Promise” if you’re not sure what to do next or ready to get started. 

 

CAITLIN ZICK HAD A PROFOUND MOMENT AT THE AGE OF SIXTEEN WHERE GOD CALLED HER OUT OF A CROWD AND HER LIFE WAS FOREVER CHANGED. FROM THAT MOMENT, SHE BEGAN TO DISCOVER WHO SHE WAS AS A DAUGHTER OF GOD, FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS, AND REALIZE THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HER LIFE. CAITLIN AND HER HUSBAND COLE BECAME DIRECTORS OF MORAL REVOLUTION IN 2017 AND OPENLY SHARE THEIR MARRIAGE STORY AND FIRST YEARS OF SEX IN MARRIAGE TO START A HEALTHY CONVERSATION AND BEGIN TO UNFOLD GOD’S DESIGN FOR SEX. THEY HAVE BEEN MARRIED AND IN FULL-TIME MINISTRY FOR ELEVEN YEARS AND HAVE STARTED THEIR OWN LITTLE ZOO, KNOWN AS #THEZICKZOO. YOU CAN FIND THEIR WILD ON INSTAGRAM WITH THEIR LITTLE ANIMALS: CALEB, CONNOR, CADE, AND CHLOE ROSE. 
INSTAGRAM: @CAITZICK
TWITTER: @CAITLINZICK

How Self-Sabotaging Destroys Relationships

Nobody wants to admit they’re a self-sabotager. I think many people fall victim to the self-sabotage mindset and may not even know it. Maybe you’re one of them? Think about it: has someone ever loved you “too much”? Do you find yourself thinking, “if they only knew the truth, then they wouldn’t love me…” Or maybe you don’t deal with these overt lies, but rather find yourself running away from success or from deep relationships? I had no idea this was something operating in my life until someone loved me way beyond what I knew what do with, and the experience revealed so much to me about how my lid of success in life was something that I was perpetuating myself.

 

HOW I REALIZED I WAS A SELF-SABOTAGER

In 1999 Kathy and I experienced a terrible financial crisis. We lost our four businesses, the home we built, and most of our worldly possessions. To make matters worse, we were left with a $1.8 million debt! That same year a man we didn’t know gave us $30,000. We found out who the mystery man was and sent him a nice thank you card. But then something strange happened…

For the next 6 months I completely avoided him. Then, one day I encountered him in a restroom, and I ran out of the building like a man on fire. As I ran out of the building I suddenly realized that there was something seriously wrong with me. This was ridiculous! Somebody once said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself,” and I certainly just got introduced to myself. What I mean is this experience was revealing something about me that was deeper than what I had bargained for, and I knew I needed to work it out.

That night, I lay in bed awake until the wee hours of the morning. Finally, in desperation I cried out to God.
“Jesus, I think there is something wrong with me. Do you know what it is?”
“Yes,” He replied immediately.
“What is it?” I inquired.
“Do you really want to know?” He asked.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to know because denial is a beautiful thing.
Finally I said, “Yes, I do.”
Jesus replied, “The man gave you $30,000. You don’t love yourself $30,000 worth and you are afraid that if he gets to know you, he will be sorry he gave you the gift.” I was stunned!
“What should I do?” I pressed.
Try loving yourself as much as I do, then you will never sabotage your prosperity,” He responded.

 

MY LOVE LID WAS $1,000

I realized that night that my love had a lid. I had been given $1,000 many times in my life, and I never avoided the people who gave it to me. But this experience showed me that I had literally put a value on my life. I began to see that every time someone loved me beyond my own ability to love myself, I destroyed my relationship with them. I’d avoid them, even to the point of running out of church like a man on fire to get away!

 

SELF-SABOTAGE COULD BE IMPACTING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

I realized that self-sabotaging plays out in so many different areas of life if you don’t value yourself. Yes, it can play out in your success, career and even finances, but it also very much affects relationships. I think it’s why people who are dating often get to a place in their relationship where they start building cases against the one who loves them. It’s true that love covers a multitude of sins; it’s also true that fear exposes and magnifies flaws in others (as a way of self-protection). When people date and they begin to grow in intimacy (which can be defined as “in to me you see”), they often begin to fear that their lover will see in them the flaws they see in themselves. This often results in one or both parties sabotaging their relationship by building a case against each other.

Of course as the years pass this is usually articulated as, “I haven’t found the right one yet.” The truth is, as long as your love has a lid, your relationships are vulnerable to destruction.

 

LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF

If this rings a bell for you then I want to reiterate what the Lord said to me the night I had this revelation. He said, “Try loving yourself as much as I do, then you will never sabotage your prosperity.

Do yourself a massive favor and let God love the hell out of you. Take some time and sit in His presence, and invite His love into every nook and cranny of your soul. Bear your insecurities, fears, and the parts of yourself that you consider “ugly” before Him, and let Him show your why you’re so incredibly lovely in every way. Then, love yourself as much as He does. Let love silence the lies that keep you out of deep relationships and real success. It will change your life forever.

 

Originally posted 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 GRANDCHILDREN.
FACEBOOK: FACEBOOK.COM/KVMINISTRIES
TWITTER: TWITTER.COM/KVMINISTRIES
INSTAGRAM: INSTAGRAM.COM/KVMINISTRIES

 


Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Tools

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my wife. She wasn’t like any other girl I had ever met, but I almost didn’t marry her because of her past. I had walked out purity my whole life, but she had started to be sexually active in middle school, and I couldn’t get past the thought of her with all those other guys. Eventually, God brought me to the point where I was able to completely forgive my wife of her past and see her through the lens of what Jesus did on the cross, but it wasn’t the easiest road.

Unfortunately in today’s culture, this story is not uncommon. Couples usually have a sexual past with other people before they come together. Statistics show that men will usually have had six different sexual partners and women four or five by the time they get married. Before I continue, I need to stop and say this doesn’t need to be an accepted reality. Moral Revolution is about purity and waiting until marriage. At the same time, we aren’t going to live in a bubble ignoring the reality of most people’s sexual activity.

So for those of you who are dating and considering marriage with your partner, what do you do with the reality of their past? This can be a massive roadblock in a relationship. For many, the idea of their spouse being with other people can be very hard to process. If you haven’t read my previous blog, “Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Perspective,” it may help as I share very openly about my own process. An important thing to note is that this is more about forgiveness than it is sharing or not sharing your past. For some couples, sharing may be exactly what is needed. Ask God what is needed for your healing.  In this current blog, I want to give some practical steps on how to handle processing your partner’s past if they were sexually active at any level before you were together.

One thing to clarify before we start: I am in no way preaching a message of tolerance towards current, repeated sin. I am talking about moving on from past events that someone has confessed, repented of and are no longer binding the person. Forgiving them doesn’t mean healing isn’t needed both for you and for them. It is important to encourage them to pursue wholeness while accepting that it probably needs to come through someone else.

Here are a few things I found helpful for me:

 

 

1. Acknowledge the broken

It is totally okay to acknowledge and need to process the fact that you won’t be their “first.” The key here isn’t ignoring that it hurts. The reason for this pain is because God designed us to have one partner and when we marry, we become each other’s. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 helps explain this in a way that sheds light on the “why” behind the hurt. God designed so that a wife’s body belongs to her husband and his body belongs to her, so when one or both of them has been with other people, it hurts. The key here is to talk about it in a way that doesn’t pile shame on them.

 

2. Seek godly counsel

The next thing I would encourage you to do is seek godly counsel. Mentors, spiritual parents, or whatever term you prefer are there to help navigate these things. Oftentimes, God will give a revelation to a leader in your life that will help you experience breakthrough. When navigating challenges, there should be a healthy balance of unpacking it with those involved and then taking it to the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in what to dissect with your partner, what to talk to a mentor about, and what to cover with Him.

 

3. Find closure

When it comes to the area of someone’s sexual past, uncertainty about how a partner feels about it can create anxiety and fear. In relationships, fear is the enemy of trust and trust is the foundation to a healthy relationship. It’s important to come to a place of closure where you are not holding it against them anymore. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, one aspect of Love that God gives us is, “Keeping no record of wrongs.” If your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse doesn’t know where they stand with you or if you continually bring up past mistakes in current conversations, you will not have a stable relationship. Talk about it as much as needed, but commit to bring the conversation to a place of resolution so that your partner knows it is no longer a roadblock for your relationship. There may be times your pasts come back up throughout the years, but its important that it isn’t used in a damaging light. It should never be ammo in an argument or to bring shame. Truly forgiving them will come with compassion and sensitivity in how to treat each other with honor. 

 

4. Learn or relearn the power of the cross

Spend time reading scriptures on forgiveness and what God Himself does with our sin. Over and over we find that He forgets, has compassion, redeems and separates sin as far as the east is from the west. Forgiveness seems to be one of His main relationship pillars with humans. The perspective of how Jesus forgives humanity will empower you to forgive your partner. In this process, ask Him to give you a revelation of what forgiveness is, to remind you of what you have been forgiven of, and show you what He expects of you to give.

 

5. Speak your forgiveness out loud

I still remember the moment I told my wife I forgave her for her past. Up until that point in our relationship, I was demanding that she tell me about all her past partners. I thought I needed to know everything that happened. Through my process of prayer, God changed my heart to the point I didn’t need that from her anymore. I totally forgave her. The day I told her she didn’t need to tell me everything and that I had forgiven her became a key step in her healing. 

 

6. Keep your heart clean

Make sure to not let your mind and heart wander back to those past thoughts. Since we have been married, I have actually come in contact with people my wife was with before we were together and I can honestly say it had no effect on me. When I forgave her, I was making the commitment to not pick it back up again. I encourage you to do the same. Total forgiveness is as much a commitment to the future as it is forgiving the past.

 

In the third and final blog, “Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: FAQ’s,” we would like to answer some questions you may have. We will not cite who the questions come from to protect your privacy. Please email questions to cole@moralrevolution.com.

 

COLE ZICK IS PASSIONATE ABOUT SEEING THE CHURCH COME TOGETHER TO BE EFFECTIVE AND THRIVE IN EVERY AREA OF LIFE. HE AND HIS WIFE CAITLIN CURRENTLY SERVE AS DIRECTORS OF MORAL REVOLUTION IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA. WITH ELEVEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE AND MINISTRY EXPERIENCE, THEY OPENLY SHARE THEIR STORY AND FIRST YEARS OF SEX IN MARRIAGE HOPING TO START A HEALTHY CONVERSATION AND ULTIMATELY SEE OTHERS FIND FREEDOM THROUGH THEIR EXPERIENCE. THEY ALSO CREATED FOUR CHILDREN IN FIVE YEARS, WHICH GIVES INSIGHT INTO THEIR LOVE FOR CHAOS. 
 INSTAGRAM: @COLEZICK