SEX: The Joys and Pains

[blockquote] Over the next few weeks, as a church, we will be examining 1 Corinthians 7 and specifically focusing on Sex, Singleness and Divorce/Remarriage in our sermon series #RelationshipStatus.  This past Sunday, we looked at SEX: A Spiritual Battle; with that in mind, this week's posts will provide more personal reflections/experiences from others on this topic.   [/blockquote]

My Journey

Six years ago, my husband and I struggled with sexual intimacy.  As a woman and wife, I was devastated. Doctors weren’t sure what was going on until a year into our marriage. They gave me several medical diagnoses due to painful intercourse. Three years and 60 lbs later, I was told I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a life-long disease causing: cysts on the ovaries, an increase in testosterone, weight gain, excessive hair growth, and infertility due to an irregular menstrual and ovulation cycle.  Ahhhhh!! Deep breaths. So many times I would tell myself that, but I never knew whom I was talking to because in the midst of all of this myself was fading. Can you imagine the stress and communication breakdown our marriage endured? My testosterone levels were so high, I often felt out of control. I mean overly aggressive, moody and sometimes abusive.

While I was trapped in my broken reality, my husband was suffering from his own—pornography. We were rarely having sex, due to my pain, his addiction and all of our other mess!  The stress and turmoil grew, and at times one or both of us emotionally disengaged from the relationship.  It felt safer, because we were no help to each other; it was as if we were on opposing teams.  My faulty expectations told me that if he were more of a man and I was more of a woman, then maybe we could be a couple. I felt so helpless as a wife and abandoned as a child of God.

Though the pain of our struggle was remarkable, we have learned that we were not nearly as alone as we felt. In fact, the Lord was indeed using that experience to refine our relationship and draw us into a deeper dependance on Him. He has stirred in our hearts a deep compassion for couples who struggle in similar areas, and has given us great opportunity to minister to marriages that resemble our own.

Sex is a Gift from God and it is good

Gary Collins wrote, “When sexual problems appear, some couples simply ‘give up’ and don’t try to resolve their difficulties. They may fear discussing the frustrations or believe that things will never get better. Others develop headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, emotional distress, or other symptoms that hide the sexual problem and can provide an excuse for abstinence.”  In addition, couples may have major effects such as: lowered self-esteem, the selection of substitute activities (explicit novels, porn, extramarital sex, etc.,), anger, impatience, and communication breakdown.  Ahhh… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV). Marriage is definitely a covenant that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. And within the covenant of marriage, sex can be enjoyed freely and passionately. “Sex is a gift from God and it is good” (Debra Taylor, MA). Togetherness with your spouse is a picture of our relationship with each other and with God. The Bible tells us that God created everything in our bodies and all of their functions; this includes genitals, sexual response, and even orgasms (Gen. 1:27,31).  So sexual responses/drives and urges are natural functions given to us by God. But used outside their design, these functions can feel strong and uncontrollable.  The enemy will do everything within his power to get you to have sex before marriage and everything possible to keep you from having sex while married.

Our world doesn’t help the encouragement of moral and Biblical sex and sexuality.  In fact, we’ve been desensitized and influenced by media and cultural norms that influence and imprint unrealistic and unhealthy views of sex and sexuality.  Take Abercrombie and Fitch, in their ads, what immediately grabs your attention the most? Is it the jeans? Or is it something else? What types of images get imprinted into your brain? Sex is everywhere in our culture, and it has become more and more readily available with no questions asked, no commitments made, and no thought as to why.

Education and Prevention Plan

I want premarital and marital couples to know that although sexual urges and desires come naturally, the art of making love is something that is pursued and learned in your covenant relationships with your spouse, as you grow closer and closer in oneness.  Psych education is so important in premarital relationships. It creates a strong foundation by stripping away myths and unrealistic expectations about marriage and sex in marriage.  For instance:

  • Female

1. Women don't enjoy sex as much as men. 2. Men should know how to feel and think. 3. I should always desire an orgasm. 4. Women's sexual desire should be like men's sexual desire. 5. Our first time will be magical and romantic. 6. I have pain during sex because God is punishing me.

  • Male

1. Men know all about sex. 2. The size of the penis determines manliness and your ability as a lover. 3. Men are always horny and erections come instantly. 4. Sex equals intimacy. 5. Women have low sex drives. 6. I must always be the best performer sexually.

These myths may be your reality, but having the correct knowledge can be a bridge leading to wholeness and sexual fulfillment in your current or future marital relationship. When sexual issues are discussed, as a part of premarital counseling, there can be more realistic expectations and a clearer understanding of physiology or lovemaking techniques, as a result, sexual problems are less likely to evolve in the marriage. And if for whatever reason problems do develop, having established a good relationship with your premarital counselor can encourage you to seek help from them.

A strong foundation or prevention plan is important in eliminating the devastating effects of sexual problems in your marriage.  If you are reading this and can relate in many areas the following is available:

  1. Counseling (Marital, Premarital, and help for the abused or struggles with sexuality and gender)
  2. Sex education to help prevent sexual problems in the marriage
    • An understanding of what the Bible teaches about sex
    • Basic facts about male and female anatomy and physiological reactions
    • New information about types of intimacy
    • Healthy sexual attitudes
  3. Moral guidance
    • Boundaries
    • Skills for abstinence and sexual retraining for abuse victims

I personally don’t want to see marriages struggle due to a lack of knowledge.  As His workmanship, he has more in store for us then our expectations.

 

 

Let's talk about sex...kids

There is an expression that you hear in Christian circles—”more is caught than taught.” This simply means that in many cases people learn more effectively by personal experience than by being taught or spoken to about a certain subject. What I have learned is that talking about sex to your kids is definitely NOT one of those subjects! I grew up in an ultra conservative home (think Leave it To Beaver) where sex was definitely not discussed. The opportunity to talk about it was there, but it was considered taboo and so it was regularly avoided. I honestly never even heard people speak of having “The Talk” with their kids in our circles. I knew about sex from probably the age of 11 or 12 but not because anyone told me about it. Some basics I learned in school, some I picked up in the boys bathroom, and some from TV or other cultural sources but none from my parents. Unfortunately, for my kids, I repeated this cycle to a certain degree as a parent, particularly about what sex is physiologically. I allowed the awkwardness of the moment to keep me from teaching my kids about how God made men and women differently both physically and emotionally, and how sex can glorify God in the context of marriage. On the other hand, we have been much more open with our kids about what God expects from them in the area of sex (waiting until you are married, giving yourself to your spouse and only your spouse, etc). We have made sure that our kids have been present at any opportunity to hear about sex from a Biblical perspective from Godly men and women, and we have not shielded them from people who didn’t do things God’s way and had to suffer the consequences.

The point is, culture is ready, willing, and able to teach your kids all the wrong things about sex..if you don’t. I believe in my heart that my parents believed that the world I was growing up in was the same world they grew up in in terms of sexual issues. Now that I’m older, I am more aware that the challenges my kids face in this area are exponentially greater than anything my wife and I faced as kids. My exhortation to parents is to be open and honest with your kids. Admit the areas where you failed and allow God to use that to help your kids meet God’s standard and have a healthy view of sex from His perspective. Please don’t allow the awkwardness of the moment to keep you from saying what you should say or allow culture to teach them from a secular perspective. Instead, allow His grace to shine in this area and bless your family with a biblical perspective on sex.

As the World Turns

Back in April, I joined others from Blueprint on my first mission trip.  Simply put, it ravished me. But, since I’ve returned, everything around me seems to keep changing.  Less than a month after being in a different country, I headed off to a different state where I’d spend two months serving at Kids Across America (that deserves a blog post all its own).  I said goodbye to friends, family, community and my city for the summer.  I said hello to 8-10 new kampers every week in the cabin I lead with my co-counselors.  Then, after five weeks, I said “see you later” to those two co-counselors and “hello” to a new partner in a different cabin with different girls.  I then returned home to begrudgingly say sayonara to my best friend whose teaching abroad for the next 10 months.  I started a new job last week, and did I mention I’m moving in about three weeks? Please, tell me your head is spinning too!

Robert Frost put it this way—“In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.” Indeed it does.  But what do we do when things are changing so rapidly around us?  Do we just jump right into whatever is in front of us now?  Do we hold on to what’s behind us? Or do we sit in our car in the church parking lot hoping that somehow our head and heart will just catch up with our eyes? (Oh, you’ve never done that?)

I think the problem comes in thinking those last three questions are the starting point.

If everything around us is changing, it is first wise for us to consider what—if anything—isn’t changing. Well, according to Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He is immutable!  Alright, but how does that help me if things around us are changing?  It gives us an anchor.  A rock. A refuge.  We don’t just jump into anything, we don’t pretend like life doesn’t have to go on, and we definitely don’t let emotions and overwhelming thoughts keep us from progressing.  We run to the God of the past, present and future—the Rock of Ages.  He will provide the comfort, guidance, strength and courage we need to not be shaken by the world around us.

“The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

*Psalm 62 is a great place to hangout.

 

I Have a Job

[blockquote] This week features posts from Angie Lewis.  She is the wife of our lead pastor, Dhati, and proud mother of six. Angie's unique voice and perspective promises to encourage and strengthen those who read. We hope you enjoy and are blessed.[/blockquote] "What do I do?" you ask. Well, I am a part time chef, I own my own cleaning business, and I’m a teacher, accountant, and secretary. I am a babysitter, a maintenance person, part-time cake decorator, event planner, manager, photographer, nurse, fashion coordinator, counselor, grounds keeper, crisis specialist, chauffeur, and coach. I am a mom of 6 children. But, my full-time (also unpaid) position is being a helpmate to my wonderful husband, a church planter.

I get asked this question all the time, do you just stay at home? Well, yes I do, but the 'just' part is not so true.  I have six children, all born in a 6 1/2 year time frame.  And, I have a visionary, integrity-filled husband who believes we can start a movement, and transform this world with the gospel.

[pull_quote_right]I get asked this question all the time, do you just stay at home? Well, yes I do, but the 'just' part is not so true. [/pull_quote_right]When my children were younger, I saw them as a herd.  Feed them, dress them, play with them, and teach them, everything could be done at the same time, in the same way. But, as they get older I am realizing that I cannot raise them as if they are all the same person.  The girls are turning into little ladies with incredibly different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, fears, etc. And, the boys are transforming into little men with their own personalities, their own desires, and their own designs. My oldest daughter is confident, intellectual, logical, truthful, a great dancer and pianist, integrity-filled, and will fight for the gospel to go forth. My second oldest daughter is compassionate, the most amazing helper I have ever encountered, athletic, strong, a nurturer, fluent in sign language (just because she made a friend at school that is deaf), timid, and so sensitive.  My youngest daughter is artsy, fun, thinks outside the box, mature, outgoing, social, and a follower. My oldest boy and fourth child is smart, strong, bossy, definitely a king-type, leader, struggles with speech, super athletic, and my shadow. My second oldest son and fifth child is compassionate, sneaky, a hard worker, desires to please, funny, growing, an overcomer, super fast, and also a follower. My baby boy and sixth child is persistent, compassionate, a lover of all, loud, loves food, loud, persistent, and oh so silly. None are the same. They require so much intentionality, so much of my prayer life, so much wisdom, so much time, energy, effort, love, and patience. They are the joy of my life, my arrows.

And then there is my husband. He is a man who LOVES the Lord, and LOVES His people.  My husband sees the best in people. He will give his last for anyone.  He takes the Word seriously, and allows it to guide us. He is a leader, and a visionary. He is the guy that moves his family 13 hours from home to start a church where we were told needed a healthy church. He is the guy that is planting a church, starting a network of urban church planters, working on his doctorate, raising 6 kids with me and is devoted to our marriage—all simultaneously. He is an easy man to follow in that he leads well and leads by example. He is a hard man to follow in that he is always challenging us out of our comfort zone, and encouraging us to trust the Lord.

So...what do I do? I identify and encourage all of the amazing attributes that God has given my family.  I see the good, the bad, and the ugly that lives in my family; I love them through it all, and receive love from them by God’s grace.  I am a mom and a church planters wife. I don't get paid a dime for anything I do, but I work tirelessly. As I type this, I have about 30 minutes until I put on the hat of event coordinator for my daughter's ninth birthday party. And, I haven't even touched on my roles as a friend, daughter, discipler, mentor; or my roles as a church lay person (cleaning bathrooms, helping with the children ministry, leading women); nor have I touched on what my roles are in my community, with my neighbors, at my kids’ school, with our missional community, with the new moms in our midst, with marriages that need encouragement, and with the people that need help with their finances.

My world is different from most, but I know if you are a church planter's wife, you can completely relate to many of the things that I am saying. I have found that I have a full-time job without holding any titles. Sometimes I lack encouragement, and I don't get any raises or promotions. But my role is important, and it’s exactly where God wants me. He is my strength, my portion, my encourager, and my Boss. Much is required of me, many are watching, many are depending on me. "So, what do I do?" you ask. I'm a wife of a church planter, a helpmate. Gen 2:18 "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

The New Urban and An Old Problem

We are in a new day. With growing urbanization in the United States, we need to prepare leaders for the next generation. It will look like something we have yet to see. America is changing, and it is changing fast. Urban is no longer limited to the inner city. Urban defines any area that is dense with population and diverse because of the density. It is in this day that living in a city means having neighbors who don't look like you and are not even in the same socio economic status as you. Statistics show that by the year 2042, minorities will be the new majority in America. By 2023 - only about a decade away - it is said that more minority babies will be born in America than Caucasian babies. These stats are showing that America is certainly changing, and it's going to look very different, very soon.

Currently, more than 50 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas. In 2030, 60 percent will live in urban areas. With gentrification, urban is no longer defined as just "black." It is now defined by density, as all the cultures collide in the cities.

We even see a shift in music. Hip-Hop music used to be the genre of music for minorities; today, CNN states that it is the leading genre of music used by major companies as the marketing medium their products. These facts were not true in the past.

So what am I saying? Historically, when minorities have used the term "city" or "urban," it has been taken to mean "inner city." Although the inner city is encompassed in the urban context, it no longer defines it holistically. When I refer to urban, I am speaking about density--and with this density, you will have diversity. Today, America is the most diverse country in the world. However, Sunday morning is still the most segregated day of the week--our churches are not following the transition that America is taking. If the church doesn't begin to make the shift, we will be irrelevant in the decades to come.

So what's the problem? Leadership- or rather, the lack thereof. Thus far, this conversation, in regards to the church in America, has been dominated by one voice--the voice of the majority. The response of minorities has been to create something "for us by us." You can see this manifested in environments like Asian ministry and African American ministry. What's more, we have just become "tokens" in the majority conversation, but with no real input. Minorities are repeating the mistakes of the majority culture, because they are operating out of the homogenous framework--not taking other cultures into serious consideration in their contextualization of the gospel. We are where we are because of the leadership. Minorities need to help create a new framework, and it is important that the new voice is one of diversity. We need a generation of minorities raised up to lead the church--a generation that doesn't just speak to pockets of our "new urban," but one that embraces the city holistically. The Rebuild Initiative seeks to be an answer to this leadership problem.

The Rebuild Initiative

The Rebuild Initiative is a minority led, multiethnic, leadership network that seeks to multiply urban leaders with the gospel. Rebuild seeks to empower indigenous leadership that leads gospel communities in the city for the city that looks like the city. To learn more about The Rebuild Initiative, visit us on the web at www.therebuildinitiative.org.

Dear America

Last week, I traveled to Guatemala along with 12 other individuals from my church to build a well and spread the love of Christ.  I headed there excited for my first trip beyond your states and glad to serve others in some capacity. People often say that mission trips (real ones, not vacations in Jesus’ name) will change your perspective on many things, but my expectations weren’t that great.  I love you—the opportunities (before I graduated and many of them dried up), the luxuries, the diversity, the comfort, the celebrities, etc.  I acknowledge your flaws, but I’m quick to come to your defense when my friends (who’ve visited other nations or studied them) downplay your greatness.  Getting to help those in need was all I figured I’d walk away with, and that would be sufficient.

But to my surprise, as we were preparing to return last week, I must admit that I didn’t want to come back to you.  I even woke up the next morning at home in my bed to find my eyelids brimming with tears.

I had no immediate sense of a mission. Yet, I had all the luxuries at my disposal again.

America...never thought I'd wish I were somewhere else.

The moment we stepped back onto your terrain upon arriving at the airport and began tweeting, facebooking and texting, a part of me was grieved.  You make us think we need those things.  But, that’s not all.  You make us think we need the coolest clothes, nicest kicks, latest technology and whatever else you want us to become slaves to.

But I couldn’t care less about any of those as we were covered in mud or drenched in sweat in a small village in Champerico, Guatemala.  Giving clean water to the beautiful, yet burdened and barefoot children or sharing the Gospel with the smiling and hopeful women was of the utmost importance.  Beyonce could have rolled up in that village in Gucci and no one would have cared unless she was going to kick a soccer ball around with the kids or put on a hard hat and get to work.

Living and loving like Christ was all that mattered out there. We were a house full of believers on mission together, praying, reading, discussing, sharing, laughing and worshipping...ahh Heavenly.  Didn't feel like a bubble either, because we dispersed once we got to the village. But the van, the hotel, the house...they were our reload points. Missional community at its finest.

But, when I'm here, I want all you have to offer.  Yet, when I was there, I wanted to give Guatemala all I had. I wanted to give myself away.  I could do that for the rest of my life. No question.

America, you no longer impress me.

I actually started hating you.

I don’t like who I am in you.

Ahh, but then I started thinking, and a friend who’d accompanied me made me realize that you aren’t the enemy.

Living Water International would not exist without you.

The guy who led the drilling project would not know Jesus without you.

His cousins and siblings would not have the jobs they have without you.

More than 200 wells along the coast and the Highlands of that precious country would not have been developed without you.

And, truth be told, we would not know the magnitude of God as He'd graced us to know it in Guatemala, without you...

Of course, when they said "America," they meant what God has graced you to be—how He’s used you to fulfill his plans and purposes.

I quickly sobered up.  I realized that even Guatemala has its vanity landmines beyond the humbleness of Victorias Tres where our worlds were rocked.  I could live in Antigua, clothed and footed, with Internet access to make me forget all I really need. So, what shall I do now that I’m back?

That’s simple—stated of course.

Be on mission here.

Neglect the things you offer or elevate that I don't want to take in or idolize. Just because I'm here, doesn't mean I have to succumb to all that's around me. It's harder within, but it's possible.

I can be in this country, but not of it.

Don’t take that personal, because I feel the same way about any other place on Earth.

It’s not my home.

It is all temporary.

With hopes to redeem you for the glory of God,

Caresse Spencer