Of the many things I experienced during my fifth-grade year, one event stands out. I was at a sleepover with girls from the neighborhood. It was late and the house was quiet as my friend stealthily led us into her kitchen. Our minds raced with curiosity as she retrieved a manila envelope from on top of the refrigerator. To my surprise, it held an image of a man and woman having sex. I’d never seen anything like it, and in an instant, something happened that was outside of my control. The pornographic image imprinted on my brain, and it would resurface again and again through the years even though I desperately wanted to be rid of it. I now realize this was a natural, physiological response to seeing something sexual, but then I was just a confused little girl.
The shame I felt that night was compounded a few days later through a conversation with my mom. Though I was too embarrassed to tell her about the image, another girl had told her mom, who then called my mom.
I don’t recall what my mom said. I’m sure she was gentle and kind. But to a child, perception is reality. Through those early experiences, I perceived that sex was bad and that I was bad for being curious or interested in it. And sadly, in the months and years to come, that perception left me unable to talk with my parents about sexual topics. I relied on my friends, magazine articles, experiences with boyfriends, and porn I found in my home and in homes where I babysat to round out my sex education. Worldly sources and experiences ingrained in me a very worldly view of sexuality.
At that time, most parents didn’t know how to really engage with their kids on sexual topics. Sadly, almost 50 years later, not much has changed except that technology has increased the likelihood of your child encountering violent, degrading, and destructive sexual videos and images of all kinds well before puberty. The image I saw was powerful, yet it pales in comparison to the experiences of most kids today.
What about you?
Growing up, did you feel comfortable talking with your parents about bodies, or porn, or sex? Can you remember a specific incident that left you feeling unable to approach your parents on sexual topics? Did the lack of a trusted ally leave you vulnerable to the world’s messaging on sexuality? I know I was quite vulnerable to it. Consequently, I internalized lies along the way that I’m slowly beginning to work through and find truth for. I’m learning to extend grace to my younger self as God opens my heart to truth related to sexuality that I missed along the way.
Our sexuality is sacred, purposeful, and powerful at every stage. By God’s design, sexuality intricately connects the body, mind, heart, spirit, emotions, and soul of a person. Even in childhood, sexual encounters affect us deeply. Some can leave scars that last a lifetime. Our children are so vulnerable, so why do we leave them without a lifeline in this sexualized culture? Why do we wait until puberty to have “the talk” about sex and then check the box? Where will your kids turn when they need information about bodies or sex or an explanation as to why something made them feel the way it did?
Sexual topics can be uncomfortable. They can lead to shame, isolation, even division. In John chapter 6 Jesus spoke of some difficult concepts that caused a lot of dissension among the disciples to the point that many turned away. When He asked the remaining disciples if they would leave him also, Peter said to Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”1 Peter knew that the One for whom he’d left all would provide all that he needed. He knew the world offered nothing in comparison to the Life-giver he’d come to know and love.
You cannot shield your kids from every sexual encounter. To whom will they turn in their most vulnerable, confused, or shame-filled moments? Who will speak words of truth and grace to them when they come face-to-face with counterfeit forms of sexuality or when they stray sexually? Is it possible even now that shame or confusion over something sexual is keeping your child from engaging with you? As you think about these questions, ask God to show you how you can become a compassionate ally to your kids.
You have an ally in Christ to help you with your sexual struggles, wounds, or sin. He is there for you. Don’t turn to the world. Turn to the One who has words of eternal life. He will provide for you. Ask God to grow your understanding of the sacredness of sexuality, both for yourself and for those God has entrusted to you for a season. TrueNorth is here to encourage you and guide you.
One day your kids will be grown and your influence in their lives will dimish. I pray when that day comes you’ll have no regret because of conversations that never happened. Instead, I hope you’ll be grateful that you took courageous steps to heal, learn, and grow so you could be their ally in their most vulnerable years.
Have a question or ideas for future blog posts? Want to share how God is providing for you and your family? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder and CEO
TrueNorth Freedom Project, Atlanta, GA
Photo by Janko Ferlič
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1 John 6:68 NASB