The Blessing of Brokenness I

I can’t tell you how many times I found myself weeping on our bathroom floor, telling God that I didn’t want to be alive anymore. Four months into motherhood and the future looked bleak. I did not enjoy my beautiful son. I was angry. Angry with God for all the ways things had gone “wrong” from pregnancy to motherhood. Angry with myself for proving to be a terrible mother who couldn’t be like all of the other mothers out there. The anger didn’t exactly disappear, but God didn’t leave me broken on that bathroom floor. He never does.

Brokenness is a funny thing. It is the very thing we all try to avoid and yet it is the one thing that makes us utterly dependent on God. There is no one and nothing else to turn to when you are broken. Nothing you can turn to that will make you whole again, that is.

I am a planner. I like to be in control. I used to think I was a pretty awesome Christian, who didn’t need anyone to guide me along the treacherous path of motherhood. I had researched it all, so why bother asking questions when I already knew the answers? So when all of my plans for just about everything were ripped into shreds, I was angry. I was supposed to have my child at a birthing center without any drugs. I had an emergency C-section after laboring for 3+ days…so yeah, I had lots of drugs and a hellishly long recovery. I was supposed to nurse my child until his first birthday and never have to use formula. I made it 6 months and ultimately had to switch to formula due to clogged ducts and my angry fits when my son would bite or not latch properly. I was supposed to love my child unconditionally. I yelled when my son wouldn’t go to sleep, slammed my fists onto tables, walls, etc. when things were out of my control, and was detached emotionally as a parent for the first year of his life. I wasn’t this way all of the time. Anyone looking from the outside in would think I was a phenomenal mother who had it all together. My son was happy for the most part and no one need know the secrets behind closed doors. But God knew and he knows that there’s no room for secrets when it comes to our darkness.

I could be in the same place I was six months ago, but in the first four months of my son’s life, God broke me. And while it took another eight months to pick up the pieces, I am whole again and I am changed. Not only did God break me, but he reshaped me. When I was on that bathroom floor, crying out to God, he heard me and he answered. Over eight years ago, when I was drowning in my sin of viewing pornography, God required that I bring it to the light. And recently, when I was drowning in my failures with anger, God required that I bring it to the light. Thankfully, this time it didn’t take years for me to listen and respond. I had learned my lesson from the past and sin would not hook it’s claws into me again.

“So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

– 1 John 1:6-7

Masturbation – Wesley Hill

John Piper posted this on facebook the other day and I thought I would share it as well. 

Obviously, he is writing this for the benefit of men, but I think it could be applicable for women as well. He definitely has some interesting ideas that many would probably find intolerant, but I tend to agree with most all of what he has to say on the subject.

Stephanie: An Open Book

Submitted By: Stephanie

I didn’t know what was going on with my body or what I was feeling. I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t know if it was wrong or if it was normal. At first, all I knew was that it felt good. I wasn’t even a teenager yet.

It was years before I even heard the word “masturbation” and some years more before I put it together that that was what was going on. Up until that realization there had been a kind of indescribable confusion and regret that existed, but after a label was applied to my actions the shame and humiliation that followed was immense and drove me into further secrecy. For years I tried to fight it off, to end it, but it seemed there were triggers all around me sending me back to that act I despised naming.
I truly believed I was the only one I knew who struggled with it and I dare not test that hypothesis by asking questions; Lord knows I sure didn’t hear the word “masturbation” in church. So I kept it to myself, at least I tried. Something in me felt I had to tell someone and the scriptures that talked about confessing haunted me. So I decided to admit to some very close friends that I struggled with “lust.” That’s what I called it because lust, well everyone struggles with that and it was a broad enough label that I felt safe behind it; God could have His way and I could have mine. Although it wasn’t enough, not because it wasn’t enough for Him, but because it wasn’t enough for me in my own heart.
One night a younger girl on a youth leadership team pulled all the female leaders into a private meeting where she boldly confessed to us all her struggle with pornography; she just had to get it out in the open. Little did she know what that would start. Her confession gave the rest of us courage to open up and open up we did. Turns out every single one of my friends, who served in leadership positions with me, struggled with masturbation at some point in their life. We all had thought we were alone all that time.
I was in high school when that little saving grace occurred. Confessing to my friends gave me strength to stand up to something I hated; it made a lot of the shame go away and I found myself enriched with a boldness to lay my struggle out there for other girls so that at least they wouldn’t feel so alone like I did for all those years. But there was still some shame hanging on, shame that I wouldn’t be free from for another 4 years when I finally gained the courage to tell my mom.
See, when God made me, He made me an open book; I naturally share what I go through and I don’t have a lot of shame about it- it’s how I’ve always been. But what masturbation did was it robbed me of that. With masturbation being in my life suddenly I had something to hide, suddenly I had shame. So, for me, confessing was what was necessary to bring me back to me. I don’t think that masturbation was the great sin that needed forgiveness. I think the bigger “sin” was me not being who I was created to be and allowing something to muddle core parts of my being. I think that broke my God’s heart more than the act itself; having to watch me be robbed of the true nature He Himself had put within me. I have come to believe that God cares far more about us than He does about what we do. Whether that be the great and holy things we can do for Him or the hurtful and shameful things we can do despite Him, He cares for us. He cares about us.

My Testimony

I posted recently inviting people to share their testimony on this blog. I have a couple of people working on sending me theirs, but until then I thought I would share my full testimony. I have given bits and pieces of it in different blog posts, but never have I written it out fully.

I grew up in a somewhat typical Christian home. We went to church ever since I can remember, although my Dad stopped going when a scandal of sorts occurred with the pastor there stealing money from the church. My mom continued to take us kids to church though and I enjoyed going. I got baptized when I was 6 or 7 (to be honest all of my childhood memories blend together and to remember an exact age is a miracle). I would say that I loved Jesus, but I don’t think I really knew what it meant to follow him.

My older brothers stopped going to church with us when they reached high school. I am not really sure why they even had an option, but it wouldn’t surprise me to know that they used the argument that if my Dad never went, they shouldn’t have to go either. It never crossed my mind that I didn’t want to go to church. I just felt like I should.

When I was around ten or so, I discovered masturbation. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that it felt really good and I knew exactly where it was that made me feel that way. I wish it had ended there, but curiosity got the best of me and living in a house of  all brothers, you hear some things that you might not otherwise. Not only that, but I first learned about sex from a friend of mine. I didn’t know exactly what she meant by her definition, but it made me curious and the internet was very accessible for me.

I searched the term sex and saw pictures that repulsed me and at the same time drew me to them and I wanted to see more. My Dad walked in and I remember absolutely nothing else about what happened. There was no conversation afterwards, just a deep sense of shame and feeling like I had done something very wrong. I was a sick, twisted little girl in my mind.

Once you view porn, it is hard not to go further. It started out with pictures for me and then progressed into inappropriate movie scenes, which made me realize that I could look up videos of this stuff online as well. There were years that I didn’t look at porn as much, but there were also years that I looked at it a lot, especially in my later high school/early college years.

Why is all of this such a huge part of my testimony? Because I truly believe porn combined with masturbation is what stunted my growth as a believer. I was sinning and unable to break free from it. And I wasn’t turning to the Lord when I messed up, I ran from Him and covered my head in shame for weeks every time I looked at porn and/or masturbated. Masturbation wasn’t something that was done in innocence for me anymore. It was always accompanied by lustful fantasies, raunchy scenes in books, or video pornography. So whether or not I actually viewed porn, I was left feeling empty and defeated and far from God.

My Senior year of high school was when things began to turn around for me. You might be asking yourself, “Isn’t that when you struggled the most?”  Yes, it is. But it is also the time when I started to take my sin more seriously. And Satan wasn’t about to make it that easy for me.

I will share the rest of my testimony in my next post. For now I want to leave you with this:

When your struggle with sin is the hardest it has ever been, remember this: God is there with you and He will never forsake you. The fact that you are not resigned to your sin and wish to defeat it is a big deal and something God can work with. You are free in Christ. Don’t let sin tell you otherwise!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36

Feelings and Truth

Sometimes I can get pretty discouraged reading other Christian women’s thoughts and how they bash people like myself who are not interested in pursuing a life including masturbation. I sometimes wonder if perhaps I am wrong about the whole thing and should just give up writing my thoughts on the topic.

But then I remember that God specifically told me to start writing. So, I am going to write until he wants me stop. And I don’t think that day is here yet.

I have read about both Christian extremes and don’t necessarily agree with either. There is the one extreme that masturbation is evil and a horrible sin that women should never allow to ensnare them. Then there is the other side: that everyone should masturbate and there is nothing wrong with it and the church is just making women feel guilty for no reason.

I would like to address both of these opinions as what they are: extreme.

To say that masturbation is evil and disgusting and horrible for a Christian woman to do is very misguided. There is nothing in the Bible that clearly states that that is the case.

On the other hand, just because the Bible doesn’t say anything specifically about masturbation, doesn’t mean it is something that Christian women should do.

I believe that masturbation is unhelpful on many levels, and for me even a sin. If someone were to tell me that it isn’t a sin and I am being silly and should just masturbate to my heart’s content, I would be very hesitant to bring my thoughts to them in the future.

I was talking to a friend the other day concerning the topic. I wanted to know how she knew that masturbation was wrong for her. She explained to me that she had Christian friends in her first years of college who persuaded her that there was nothing wrong with it. These friends would openly talk about how masturbation was a good thing and advocated it whenever they could. My friend always wondered why they felt the need to push this idea on as many Christians as possible. She concluded that they were insecure about their position on the matter, and like any insecure person they hid it behind strong opinions and pushy tactics.

She went on to explain to me how feelings had a big part in helping her make her decision. She masturbated for a while telling herself that nothing was wrong with it and she could do what she wanted. But deep down she knew that it wasn’t what God wanted for her. Every time she would give in to her desires she knew that she had let herself down and let her Savior down. It was only a feeling, but sometimes God speaks to us through our feelings.

People say you can’t trust your heart. It’s true. In 1 John 3:20 it says, “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything”. Our heart is what condemned us in the first place so why would we trust it?

There is wonderful news though! We can trust Jesus’ heart and he has given us the ability to access his heart on matters of this world through His spirit. If you are filling your life with Jesus and with His word and his Holy Spirit your feelings can be spot on. And my friends feelings were telling her what she was doing was wrong. So she stopped. As a single woman she hasn’t masturbated for at least a year and she has no regrets. She is obeying the voice of her Father in heaven. There is nothing to regret.

I began masturbating when I was 10 years old. Up until I was in college, I never had a single person in the church, my family, or my friends tell me that masturbation was evil. I just felt that it was wrong. No one planted those ideas and feelings in my head. And when I started to ask Jesus where His heart stood on this subject in my life, I still came to the same conclusion: masturbation should not be allowed to have a place in my life.

Feelings: that is the root of this post, but not just any feelings. What are God’s true feelings on this subject in your life? Have you even asked him about it or are you just doing whatever you want to do because you can. Does God want masturbation to be a part of your single or married life? I can’t answer that question for you, but He can.

If you haven’t ever done this, I would recommend you do one thing. Forget about all the things you have read on it. Forget about the different extreme opinions Christians have on this topic and how the majority of people (whether Christian or not) masturbate at some point in their lives. Forget about your own desires and your own opinions. Focus on Jesus, and ask him to reveal His true feelings on this matter in your life. Ask that He would help your own desires to line up with His desires. I promise, you will not regret it.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. – Proverbs 28:26

Your Heart Is a Storage Unit

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:11 ESV)

Sometimes I think we forget the importance of storing up God’s word in our hearts. Growing up in the church I think a lot of Christians become tired of memorizing scripture. They have been told to do it all their lives and it is impossible for most normal people to memorize and retain the entire Bible.

Not to mention the fact that there are so many different versions and if you don’t choose the version you will stick with for the rest of your life you will just have to re-memorize it in another one.

But there lies the problem. Memorizing and storing up are not necessarily equivalent. Just because you have an entire chapter of Philippians memorized, doesn’t mean you have actually stored it up. You could know it perfectly word for word, and it still means absolutely nothing in your life.

Other versions of this particular verse in Psalm 119 say “hidden” instead of stored. Either way it is something that is thought to be of value. There is no value in memorizing the entire Bible. The value lies in how it transforms us.

I still like to memorize. I am a perfectionist, what can I say. But I have to continually remind myself of the purpose behind it. I want to pray scripture over myself. I want to have God’s word readily available to speak truth into the lives of those around me. I don’t want to show off how much I know. In an instant, I could lose my memory or become disabled in some way preventing me from retaining information. I am constantly praying that God would really help me to store it in my heart and not just my brain.

I see the way this storing up affects others lives. My grandmother is getting old and losing her short term memory. She gets confused easily and doesn’t even remember what happened just a few hours before. But she still knows her Savior and she knows how to tell people about Him. She is the sweetest person and makes friends out of perfect strangers wherever she goes. She may even still have Scripture memorized, but her impact is not due to what her brain can retain.

It is due to her sweet spirit; her gentleness and her way of listening to those who need to unload their sorrows. She is unselfish in every way, and always wants to do everything she can to further God’s Kingdom. Only the Word of God can do that in a person’s heart.

The most important part of this verse is that storing up God’s Word gives us the ability to not sin against Him. That should be our desire. We were made to bring Him glory. And if we sin, we cannot accomplish this. Jesus is good and our Savior regardless, but while on this earth our desire should be to become people who are continually glorifying Him!

The only way to do that is to not sin against Him. And the only way to stop sinning is by storing up His Word.

Ways to resist temptation

I have already shared my thoughts on whether or not masturbation is a sin. I want to focus on what can help those who view it as something that is unhelpful or even sinful. There are several things that I have found to be extremely helpful in resisting the temptation to masturbate.

1. Marriage really does help. At least, in my case it has. With a husband who is willing to make time for you and meet your needs, things will become much less difficult. However, not everyone is in this situation. If you are single, this point probably frustrates you to no end. And not all married women have husbands that are willing to meet their needs.

2. Have someone that you confess to! You can tell yourself all day long that you won’t do it again and no one needs to know you messed up. If you do slip up, it isn’t like you telling yourself will really embarrass you all that much. But if you have to tell someone else it changes things drastically. You think twice about what you are about to do, because you know if you go through with it you are going to have to tell that person. You could always lie to them, but that would only increase your frustration and guilt.

3. Know your cycle. Have you ever noticed that you typically have the desire to masturbate around the same times of the month? I definitely experienced that but never really took the time to figure out why until recently. I have found theories (no facts) that women have a higher sex drive during the week before ovulation due to the higher levels of testosterone. Either way, if you notice you tend to be tempted more during a certain time of the month, start taking note of that so you can be more prepared mentally and have people praying with you about it.

4. Don’t make it easy to fail. If there are certain places (bedroom, bathroom, etc.) that you tend to masturbate in, don’t be in those places unless it is necessary. If you like to study or read in your bedroom, but find that your mind will wander and you give in to temptation even though your intentions were sincere, start studying or reading somewhere that that won’t be an issue. If you struggle more reading certain books or watching certain movies, stop making it harder on yourself and acquire different tastes. Those books and movies may not be bad in and of themselves, but for you they are.  In a nutshell, you will have to make some sacrifices.

5. Memorize scripture. If the Holy Spirit has convicted you about masturbating, the enemy will do everything he can to make sure you fail. Nothing works better than prayer and quoting the Word of God. There are three verses in particular that I find to be the most helpful and they just happen to all be in books of the Bible that start with C!

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Most importantly, and probably the only one that really needs to be remembered is this: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” The more you dwell on your heavenly Father, the less you will desire the things that you once did. The other things may help for a time, but without this one thing you will eventually fall back into your old desires.

I hope this helped somebody, and I would appreciate any feedback that anyone has to offer. If there is anything you would like to see discussed feel free to let me know!

Walking in Freedom – Part II

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;” – Romans 8:5-6

As I said in a previous entry, I believe that if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are free. And that freedom is complete regardless of where you stand in life. You don’t have to clean up your life first to become free. If you did, it wouldn’t be called grace.

But then we get into the more complicated area of freedom. I think there may be two different freedoms that we try to lump into one. We are freed from death and our sins are covered by the greatness of Jesus, but are we free from sin? I think that depends on what your mindset is.

Too often, we end up focusing solely on our own issues; on our own problems and how messed up we are. We are free, so why are we still sinning? Instead of focusing on the one who set us free and seeking His wisdom and the things above, we focus on ourselves and the things we are doing wrong.

We will not live in accordance with the Spirit until we set our minds on Jesus. So, if we are focusing on our own fleshly desires, we will never be set free in the way we are hoping for. But if, even while we are sinners, we choose to set our minds on Jesus, things will start to change for us. We will begin to only desire the things we are choosing to set our minds on. We will no longer desire the things that our sinful nature will always desire.

We cannot clean ourselves up first. We cannot stop living in our sinful ways before we decide to focus our minds on the Word and the things of Jesus. It is impossible. But through Him, everything is possible.

Perhaps if we all chose to focus on the goodness of our creator more often than the wretchedness of ourselves, we would find ourselves in a place of righteousness and holiness that we never dreamed to achieve.

A life lesson

I plan to continue to post entries every Sunday that are along the same lines of what I have been posting, but every now and then I have a thought that I really feel like God wants me to share. I hope it benefits someone. 🙂

Something happened today that really got me thinking about a few things.

I work in a place where I encounter people who are, to put it nicely, crazy. They lose their minds over things that are out of my control and say hurtful things. I have not always responded in the best way outwardly or inwardly. I find myself dwelling on all of the things I wish I had said in response to their cruel words. It is like the event follows me even after it is all over with. I tell the story painting the crazy customer in the worst shade possible and me in the best. Don’t get me wrong, they usually are pretty absurd and, in the world’s eyes, deserve everything I am saying about them, but is that how I am called to act?

Today I was in line at Walmart and an older black man got in line behind me. I immediately knew something was wrong as he began to throw racial slurs that didn’t even apply to me behind my back. I was hoping that he was on a Bluetooth talking to someone, but as I glanced behind me I noticed there wasn’t one. When he saw me glance back he then began to mutter quite loudly about how I shouldn’t be looking at him and he was fixing to kill me and bury me alive. Then he proceeded to say some rather vulgar things that he was going to do to me. I was concerned and didn’t want to accuse him of something he wasn’t guilty of. So, I turned around and asked him if he was talking to me or someone else because I couldn’t tell. He said that I was mistaken and he was talking about Walmart itself. I really didn’t believe him but didn’t want to prolong the conversation as I could tell something was very wrong with this man. He said many other things which I chose to ignore and I checked out and left all while he was continuing to talk about me behind my back.

I have absolutely no idea why this man was saying all these horrible things to me. I did absolutely nothing to deserve it. And yet my reaction to him was completely different than my reactions to customers in the past. And none of them have ever threatened to bury me alive outside. If I heard someone else tell that story, I probably would have piped in with how I wouldn’t have taken that craziness and would have immediately called the cops on him. Well, I didn’t do any of that. I was more focused on wondering how a person gets to that point. The point where they say vile things to people for no apparent reason. Did he even realize how horrible he was being? Was he completely out of his mind? What could possibly cause a person to behave in such a manner? Instead of responding to all of his comments, I let it go. Everything inside of me wanted to tell him he was a jerk and I was going to call the cops on him, but where would that have gotten me? Probably buried alive somewhere.

I have seen people return fire with fire and it never turns out well. When I find myself dwelling on what I should have or could have said in response to all the people who insult me for no reason, I need to start praying that I would be able to forgive them and treat them far better than they treated me. I feel like I did that with the man in line at Walmart. I can’t say I have done the same in the past with my crazy customers. This is something I want to change. I want to start living my life in a way that paints people in a better light than they deserve. A life where I don’t wish I had been more sinful than I was and instead am grateful that Christ has helped me show self-control. I am praying that my stories in the future will show how God is using me to extend kindness and grace where normally none would be given.

I’m tired of letting the crazies rule my thoughts at the workplace. I am ready to dwell on my Savior and
let go of the pain their hurtful words can cause.

Masturbation: It’s Not Disgusting

I mentioned it before in A Breath of Fresh Air, but I want to focus on it for this particular entry.

I had a really hard time even saying the word masturbation when I first brought what I was dealing with to my friend. Even after that I felt awkward and weird saying the word. My friend said it with ease and basically forced me to use the word just so she knew that we were on the same page.

Recently, I had a young woman share her past and present struggles with me. She was a reflection of myself a few years ago. She felt like she was the only one dealing with masturbation, but when it came time to tell me the truth she couldn’t say the word. She kept telling me how disgusting it was. I wasn’t trying to be mean, but like my friend, I forced her to use the word.

After I talked to her, I wondered why I followed in my friends footsteps. What is the importance of becoming comfortable using the word masturbation?

There are a few reasons that I came up with, but only a couple that I find are really important.

First of all, it prevents miscommunication from occurring. Until you actually define what it is you are dealing with, people you share your life with aren’t going to know how best to pray for you. Using words like “struggling” and “lust” aren’t going to get the point across. Do you know how many forms struggling and lusting can take? You will ensure that the prayers you receive will be as general and vague as you are. And you may run into a few people praying for things that don’t even apply to you!

More importantly though, being comfortable with the word erases the link of shame that you have placed on it. Masturbation is real and most people deal with it at some point in life. You may not have realized that until now, but it doesn’t change the fact. As a Christian, it may not be beneficial for you, but it isn’t disgusting. If you have masturbated, you are not a disgusting person.

Let me repeat that. You are not a disgusting person.

If your desire is to stop masturbating, telling yourself that you are disgusting and worthless and imposing self-hate will get you nowhere. Those are lies, so stop believing them! You may lack self-control, be out of touch with the Holy Spirit, or simply bored and not doing enough with your life. All of which can be corrected.

Words can have power, and sometimes that power is negative. In years past, I was allowing this one word to wreak havoc in my soul and tell me I was something I was not. Don’t allow it to do the same thing to you.