It’s spring in Atlanta, and God’s handiwork is amazing to behold. I decided to adorn our back deck with some loveliness and enlisted the help of someone at a local nursery to put together a couple of potted arrangements. Our challenge was to find plants that could thrive on a scant four hours of sun each day and still fulfill my desire for color and beauty. Time will tell if we succeeded or not.
The plants I assembled are unique and beautiful in their own way. But they share a common need for nurture and care. They need to be tended to and not ignored or left to potentially destructive elements like scorching heat and too much shade.
In the same way, our God-given sexuality needs to be nurtured and tended to, not left to the cultural elements that could potentially mar God’s good design or leave us vulnerable to the world’s counterfeit messages. Each individual’s sexuality is shaped over time by various influences, some good, some not so good, and some downright destructive.
You were once a young boy or girl becoming more aware of your sexuality, though you were totally unaware of what was happening. For most of us, things of a sexual nature came into our lives long before any “talk” about sex. The “funny feeling” that ensued was new and pleasurable. Our curiosity was piqued. And probably mixed with the new feelings was some level of shame or embarrassment. Most of us didn’t feel comfortable talking about these feelings or experiences with our parents, leaving us alone and vulnerable.
The lingerie section of the Sears catalog was interesting to me, and I had no idea why. I now know that it was because I was born with good, natural, and God-given feelings related to sexuality, and seeing people in underwear was somewhat arousing to me. I didn’t have a word for it then; it was just a new, pleasurable feeling. It didn’t mean I was ready for sex. It just meant that my body was responding as God created it to respond.
Perhaps you remember similar things such as naked natives in National Geographic magazines, pictures of models in bathing suits, or an erotic scene described in a book. Think back to the first porn image you saw and how you felt in that moment. Curious? Excited? Horrified? Ashamed? Captivated?
Or maybe something more traumatic like sexual abuse happened to you leaving you feeling ashamed, confused, yet sexually aroused. On the other hand, early sexual experiences that involved another person may have also made you feel special or uniquely bonded to that other person.
We are all sexual beings, wired for closeness and intimacy with God and others. Our sexuality is shaped by various influences over a lifetime beginning with the emotional bonds we form (or don’t form) as infants.
Your sexuality was impacted by many influences; for example, how well your parents modeled healthy sexuality, how affectionate they were, how they responded to your sexual questions or discoveries, how they handled potty training. Child abuse and neglect are particularly harmful.
Other influences like cable television, VHS tapes, DVDs, magazines, ads, commercials, and porn began to shape your sexuality also. Perhaps you also received positive messaging about bodies and sex, though I am realizing that those messages were rare for most of today’s parents.
In a broken world, we were all exposed to images or experiences of a sexual nature that we didn’t ask for or seek out. These encounters affected us deeply though we had no idea of their significance then. Sexual experiences are significant, and the brain naturally stores memory of them. The brain can even repress the memory of traumatic experiences as a means of survival.
Have you ever taken some time to consider how your sexuality was shaped and influenced during your childhood? Was your sexuality mostly nurtured or mostly neglected? In what ways?
If you want to continue to grow in your understanding of God-honoring sexuality and lead your kids to embrace it as well, a good next step may be to prayerfully ask God to reveal the major and minor influences that have shaped your sexuality so far, things related to your understanding of bodies, sex, attraction, or relationships.
Be open to the subtle and more overt ways that your sexuality was impacted through your experiences both within and outside of your control. Your stories may be rooted in someone else’s sin, the fallout of living in a broken world, or perhaps your own sinful choices. Each was allowed by a loving God who can use them to lead you closer to Him.
As you take the brave step of considering how your sexuality was shaped, be kind to your younger self. You were a child with very limited information. Perhaps you were not protected as you should have been. Often in a sensitive or vulnerable moment, a child is silenced, whether by fear or by another person.
The younger versions of yourself still live within you. It might be helpful to give that child a voice now. Listen to him without shaming or condemning. Let her cry or express emotion that wasn’t allowed then. This can be so healing.
Pray about sharing more openly with someone like a spouse or a close friend, someone who will say, “I’m sorry that happened to you” without shaming, condemning, judging, or instructing. Be that person for someone else in your life.
Hidden things are powerful, but often just the simple step of exposing them, bringing them into the light, can be even more powerful for healing and growth. Ask God to show you the truth for any lies you began to internalize through your experiences.
Consider meeting with someone on staff at your church, a therapist, a CSAT (Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist), or trauma-trained therapist to discuss any unresolved or unhealed wounds or struggles. You might want to read Jay Stringer’s book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing or Healing the Wounded Heart by Dan Allender.
Whether your sexuality was nurtured or neglected during your childhood, your stories matter to God. Trust Him to give you wisdom for the timing and the words, but don’t be afraid to share them. They may be the most powerful tool you have to gain your children’s trust for a topic as significant and sensitive as sexuality. In a future post, we’ll share about how your stories can make you more approachable to your kids.
God promises that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. As God works “all things” together for your good (including bad things that happened, things you feel ashamed about, choices you made, your regrets, or even your current habits or struggles), He is also conforming you to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). As you trust God for the next step in your journey forward, remember to also trust Him with all the parts and pieces of your past.
Let us know how we can encourage or equip you! Share topics you’re curious about. We’d love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder and CEO, TrueNorth Freedom Project, Atlanta, GA.
PS – We’re helping host the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit May 2-4, 2019, at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. Plenary speakers include Dr. Juli Slattery, Dr. Crawford Loritts, Jay Stringer, and Pastor Jason Dees. The summit will offer 23 breakout sessions over 4 tracks. You can find more information here.
Want to help us bring the good news of sexuality to a hurting and broken world? Find ways to give here. TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. Donations are tax deductible. Our EIN is 46-5767272.
Photo by Mateusz Dach.