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A few weeks ago, tbV and our two housemates Aaron and Sarah went for a meal and games-playing evening [yes, Settlers of Catan] to our friends from church, Mike and Leah.

Aaron and Mike have at least one thing in common in that they both work in what must be one of the best jobs in the world – teaching young children engineering concepts through Lego [or Legos if you're Americanese!].

So before we went to visit we came up with a plan to legonap some of Mike’s lego people and hold them hostage for a bit of fun.

Sadly, when we got to their house his Lego men were all safely hidden away and so our plan seemed thwarted.

Until i had to make a restroom call and met these friendly creatures:

adultducks

The wedding ducks were perched on the top of the Smiths toilet and so i secretly pocketed them and let the others know as we drove home that the mission had not been completely compromised.

We then got to work with TYPING [of course] a ransom letter and taking pics of their ducks being guarded by Aaron’s Ninja Lego men:

Sent it to them. Great laugh. And you’d think the story would end there, right?

Well it was until Val and Aaron and i went to play games at our friend Bruce’s house. Great evening of games, amazing snacks, and good company and all going relatively routinely, until i happened to need the bathroom and when i went i happened to spot these guys [as part of a larger group of five on a rack in the shower]:

smallducksphone

Pretty familiar-looking right… that is until you see this other picture taken with my phone for scale appreciation:

dckswithphone

Wait, What? Did i step into Inception here? No you did not. Turns out Bruce and his family have a set of 5 ducks, including two very similiar wedding ducks, but of the little tiny baby duck-sized variety…

So naturally i pocketed them [for a guy big on honesty, i don't seem to have too many qualms for stealing it seems...] and took them home and we came up with plan B.

bothsets

Which involved another coincidental dinner party at Mike and Leah’s where i left the two tiny wedded ducks on their toilet…

And then another regular games night at Bruce’s where i ‘SNUCK’ the two giant ducks into the throng:

newfamilyducksYeah, they just fit right in there, huh?

I’m not sure if the moral to this story is ‘Don’t invite Brett and Val to your house for games’ or maybe just that you should look a little better after your toys and play companions when you do.

All i am suggesting is that life is too short not to ‘kidnap a set of plastic ducks from your friends while playing board games at their house and creating a ransom note from letters cut from magazines and typing the envelope address and then kidnapping a different set of smaller ducks from your other friend’s house while playing board games and switching both sets of ducks and replacing them at the opposite plastic duck house’… or something…

Do you have any similiar stories involving friends’ figurines, stuffed animals or works of art? i would love to hear them…

 

Taylorraephotography.com

Photo courtesy of Taylorraephotography.com

I’ll be the first to tell you that I suck at marriage. Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago we were sitting on a bench outside a perfect little neighborhood boulangerie in Australia, eating pain au chocolat in the sunshine when Jonathan told me he was thinking of applying to grad school so that he could potentially start a program when we return from Korea. “What do you think?” he asked me.

Do you know what the first thing out of my mouth was? I’ll give you a hint – it wasnt “I think that’s great and I support you in your dreams of getting your Masters,” and it wasnt “Where do you want to apply? Let’s start thinking about how we could make that work.” It was (imagine this with an extremely whiny voice), “But if you start grad school right away we won’t have time to do any traveling after our contract is over because you will have to go back right away for school, and traveling is basically the entire reason I came to Korea!” I actually said that. While we were sitting on a sunny bench on an idyllic tree-lined street in the trendy part of SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.

I suck at Marriage, but my Marriage doesn’t suck – Lily Dunn

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

[To read more of Lily's writing, make sure you check out her blog, 'Such Small Hands: Searching for Purpose and finding Grace']

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

[To read the next Marriage Year 5 post by Lindsay and Nate Brown, click here]

[To return to the beginning of the series and get glimpses from 45 years of marriage, click here]

troll
today i happened to stumble upon this blog post titled, ‘Simple is the way’ announcing that we had been invited to move to Americaland to work with The Simple Way non-profit and live in Philly.

it’s not a particularly great blog post – more of an announcement for friends and family and just sharing the excitement at the time, but what was interesting, and what was again skimming through, was reading the comments [56 of them, including some responses] from people in South Africa who clearly didn’t think it was the greatest decision in the world:

Morne asked: Will you guys come back after getting a taste of the good life in America?

For Vanessa, it was the financial implications:

How are you going to get the money for the tickets as well as the Visas for such a long duration?

If a normal Christian wanted to go over to America, how would they go about it? Would people help any normal Christian out with cash? Or do you need to be quite high up in the Church in order to get the money?

Warren was on point with: People only have a certain amount of money. A certain amount that they can give. If they give to you, doesn’t it detract from giving to others more in need who are starving?

Joanne was worried about our family members, and the township children: Won’t you miss your friends and family here in SA? What about all the township children? But sounds like a fun opportunity to leave like the rest of the people. If others like doctors and whoever leave, then why not christians also.

And then returned with a statement that backed up the idea that when people use the phrase “Just Saying” they seldom just are: On your way to the airport, you’ll pass thousands of poor people in shacks…. just saying..

Joanne really seemed invested in our well-being, especially when she heard we were doing perilous transcription work to try and make enough money to set out: Why not get a job delivering pizza? Or a both of you work as waiters/ waitresses? This way you will interact with people instead of transcribing things all day which is quite boring I can imagine. You could save up quite quickly and get to go on your trip.

Joanne really did have a lot more to say but it seems like she really got to the heart of our leaving in this comment: If it was just for a change of scenery, then why not admit it. Why make out as if its about the poor in Philie? Are they then going to send people from Philie here and we shift people all over the world, costing millions when this money could just go directly to the poor. Or is it all about your experience, learning, your this, your that? Something like that.

Definitely something like that.

All the while these comments were interspersed with humour from a favourite commenter of ours at the time [Where are you now Brits?] who wrote to Joanne: You must leave that job of yours. Get a job as a bar lady! They pay well and you will be happy as you can suip [drink] and get paid and listen to music.

Filon was a lot more practical and helpful in his recommendations: Africa is a lost cause. Go to USA there are more opportunities.

While MJ was clearly swimming against the current: I like the bit where everyone got stoked for you and Val, and stopped trying to find something to complain about. That was my favourite part.

Jeff jumped in to question our quitting themness: I think what people are really saying is that we have poor here. We have poor there. Why there and not here? I understand that you’ve done much needed work here, but why quit us now? Surely we need more Americans coming to help Africa than the other way round?

[as a side note Jeff, Americaland in many ways could use more Africans of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds to come over here and help out - the grass seems to be of a very similiar hue in many ways over here]

troll2

Brits kept things light with his commentary [including some helpful suggestions for getting sufficient alcohol on the plane]:

Hi Brett I check your blog now and again. But lately not too much because I don’t know much about dating and that bell oke. Maybe some new age minister. I also slipped off the wagon again and took up my sport of drinking beer now I have gained kilos and moved to Aghulus for a holiday. I am starting exercise and am inspirated by your pushups. I am aiming for 20. Or maybe running is better, probably walking at first. must make a start of something.

It is funny to hear that whenever you argue with Christians, they reckons you’re the devil haha. I’m accused of this when I am too drunk and the bar lady says I am a wild devil for not paying the tab for 20 beers. I always come pay the next day or after. Besides she even drank 2 herself haha women are very bad with math. They very good at making shopping lists and spend cash.

I think it’s good that you go there as travel is an experience. I must not to a blog as Christians will moan at my beer drinking and say I must give to the bergies but I often give them beers they don’t understand. When I am more drunk I get generosity and buy takeout then buy for the guy outside also. So beer helps with that. Beer or sobeer haha you must not worry and soon you will be in Amerika.

Christians must not be boring. Traveling is fun and a good experience. The budweiser in Amerika not so good but whiskey is more cheaper than here. Are you going to Bronx. You must please be careful as there us gangsters there and pimps on the alert. Bruce Springsteen sings about the Bronx snd Philadelphia. Listen to that to get in the mode.

On the plane you must drink the wine and the beer. If you see an old lady or someone not drinking you must ask for their wine. They limit you to 2 or 3 drinks.

In Amerika you must tell on a map as they not very educated with geography. Do buy a good map to show them where you from.

But we must drink when I’m back from Aghulus. I will pay as you saving up now. I will try calm down before then. What day you flying?

To get donations you must put your account number up. Or maybe use paypal. You must open FNB account to do that here. Not sure exactly but I know it’s FNB. What amount do you need? I can help as well and leave out beer for a month.

To be Christian is not just misery, you must have fun aswell. I think Keanu reeves in little budda even said we must not just live on bird poo. We must have a balancing act of fun and hardness. The Bible also us sometimes too serious and they must have left out many fun times and jokes Jesus had. Christians must be more fun. We not living in old castles with dungeons and crazy priests.

Nobody wants to be a Christian who is miserable. It must be a fun thing or else people will not join up. Just out up photos on your site so we can check out where you are. Keep up the jokes. Your wife must blog more as she is slacking. But she must keep it easy to understand.

I am back next weekend and we can suip a bit or drink coffee. But ya put up an account or whatever. Check it out. Wish you guys good blessings.

And then a bunch of our family and friends ruined the whole thing by jumping on and saying nice things about us and reminding us that it was a good idea to go. Phew. What a fun walk slash sTROLL down memory lane… and looking back on three years, certainly NOT the easy option.

reading all those comments reminded me of the time i wrote a post on forgiveness [well shared an audio thort i had done] and got 59 comments of which i don’t think any related to forgiveness at all but were more focused on how christians like me hate animals and how i was personally going to be responsible for the closing down of the world of birds which you can read about over here – on the other hand, it has been a long time since i got anything like that as a response to anything i’ve written so i have to wonder if that means i’ve been writing too safe..?

well with under two weeks to go til we head home to South Africa, i expect that will change – last few months have been posting more of other peoples’ thoughts such as this marriage series we did, most of the posts on race [which i am looking to dive into a little deeper when we get home] and these recent series on Porn and Sex, because, well, you know.

if someone is not Troll’ing, are you really speaking the Truth? i don’t think writing to offend is particularly helpful, but writing knowing that it will more than likely offend is completely necessary, especially if you are writing Truth. so sometimes the amount of naysayers and virtual stone throwers can be as helpful, if not more so, than those who are clapping loudly and winking knowingly.

looking forward to a new phase of writing more from me as opposed to simply being a space where i share others thoughts and stories [although hoping to always be a place where that can happen]…

are you ready, world?

truth

This is honestly pretty much how i feel about the concept of spinning. Well played Stephan Pastis and the gang from Pearls before Swine:

pearlsbeforegym

[For another great Pearls strip dealing with raiSINs with special guest appearance of a Garfield strip, click here]

[For a collection of Pearls before Strips that i deemed fun enough to share on my blog, click here]

pornarticle2 We met Bek Curtis last week and she has kindly agreed to let me post her follow-up to the post she shared with us  on her struggles with and victory over Pornography. So here is a repost of her unplanned part II, titled ‘The ‘How’ of Freedom':

I find myself writing once again on the topic of pornography, and once again writing with reluctance, fueled this time by different motivators.
I had a few people express frustration with the original article I wrote, due to the fact I didn’t expand on the ‘how’ of gaining my freedom, a frustration I can empathise with.
I am more than happy to share how God intervened, as the glory belongs solely to Him.
My reluctance however, centers around individuals who are struggling with porn addiction and looking at my ‘how ‘ and trying to emulate it to become their ‘how ‘, without checking with God to discover His perfect plan for individual freedom.

We are all unique, any addictions or self-control struggles we face are fed by a multitude of factors that vary from person to person. What drove me, may not be what drives you, and so the process of, and journey toward your freedom may look different to mine.
There are things I won’t write about, things I didn’t do in my journey, but things that may work for you. Tools such as mentoring, household/mobile internet filtering, counselling, accountability partnerships, and countless online support groups and resources.

Our God is a unique God. He is a God of relationship, not religion.
A formula created to unlock freedom is not what He is requiring of you. Instead He extends an invitation for you to have intimacy with Him.
When Jesus healed, He did not use the same ‘method’ each time. Some received healing through prayer, for another it came via a physical anointing of saliva mud, and for one courageous woman, an act of faith, just a touch of His robe was enough to bring about her healing.

When we rely on formulaic prayers and procedures, focusing only on our desired outcome, we miss the relationship, we miss the very key that unlocks our chains.

My freedom journey began with a distinct moment when watching a particular porn video (this is not a reason to keep watching until you have an ‘Ah HA’ moment!) there was a girl positioned in front of the camera, lying on a couch and whilst I truly cannot remember the sexual acts she was engaged in, I do remember her eyes.
Everything else in that moment faded away as I looked into this young woman’s eyes, into the eyes of a women who was clearly under the influence of heavy drugs.
I saw within those eyes a lifetime of pain, a lifetime of abuse and rejection. Her eyes held the burden of a lifetime’s striving for approval, acceptance, attention, love.

The eyes are the window to the soul, and hers was broken, crushed.

I wish that I could say that was it, the glimpse of this woman’s troubled life had changed me so profoundly that I never struggled again, but to say so would be a lie.
What did occur, was a shift in my thinking toward these women, a recognition that beneath the bravado were young women who longed to be loved.

I wanted to help these women.
I suddenly saw in front of me a harvest of souls waiting to be shown the love of Jesus. But how could I ever hope to make a difference, to reach them if I was sowing into their pain?
Each minute I viewed their outward cries for approval, I tightened the chains that bound them, that bound me.

I began to desire to be part of a solution.
I began to desire God and His will in my life above all else.

When I wrote the words: ‘My God is the God of freedom, for those who truly desire it’, in my initial article, I was sharing with you my ‘secret’ my ‘how’.
I desired God above ALL else. Above porn.

1. EMBRACE THYSELF
I resolved to stop making excuses and justifications for why I was drawn to viewing porn.
We humans are experts in defending our poor behaviour. We can make impassioned pleas and excuses for all manner of dodgy deeds.
I’ve raised three children through toddler-hood, I have witnessed my fair share of self-justification-tantrums!

Sometimes we don’t grow out of these tantrums, we just change the way we allow them to manifest.
But in order to face addiction head on you have to coach yourself to an excuse-free place. A place where self-awareness, self-examination, and recognition of self-responsibility is not only embraced, but practiced.
Whilst ever you are seeking to blame all or part of your behaviour on someone else’s actions or lack of actions as the case may be, you make a marked choice; to remain in addiction.

You may have a partner who doesn’t fulfill your sexual desires or appetite, you may be genuinely frustrated, angry, hurt or lonely, but while you allow resentment or rejection to dictate your behaviour you are choosing to give away much needed power that could instead be harnessed and used for self-responsibility and self-control.

2. RESTRICT
I set about putting restrictions on my phone, as that was where I had easiest access to porn.

This made it a very conscious and rebellious decision if I chose to go in search of content I shouldn’t.

3. RSVP
I embraced God’s invitation into intimacy, and I started talking openly with Him.

When I felt temptation coming on, I would tell Him. I would explain what was happening, and I would focus on Him, begin to thank Him, begin to worship Him.
Let me tell you, it’s hard to maintain sexual arousal, and a desire to view pornography when you are speaking, or in my case singing to the Creator of the universe!

Condemnation is an insidious thing and I believe it’s one of Satan’s greatest tools.
How many times have you felt as though you’re trapped aboard the ‘I’m sorry God, I did it again. Help me’, carousel?
Condemnation says, ‘Okay, you can’t keep saying sorry, this is a joke, just stop talking to Him’.
But God says: ‘It’s okay, come to me, I want to help you, let’s walk through this again, I’m here for as long as it takes.’

Brutally honest discussion with God is the key.
What’s stopping you? It’s not like He’s going to be shocked, He knows what you’re thinking anyway! But He is the perfect gentlemen, He will not force you to open up, He allows you to exercise free will and bring your thoughts to Him.

4. TAKE HOSTAGES!
My experience with addiction (and trust me, ’tis plentiful, as addiction and I have been buddies in various forms for many years), is that it is not so much a case of trying to talk oneself out of addiction, but rather into it!

There was always a voice that started out as a suggestion, a mere offering of an idea to view porn or whatever current addiction I was flirting with. *Cue the internal to and fro dialogue:
No, that’s not a great idea, I don’t really want to do that. Sure you do, it’s fine, it’s just this once. No it’s not just once, I won’t stop. Sure you’ll stop! This is the perfect way to prove it, just do it today and you won’t have to do it tomorrow. Hmmmm. You can stop whenever you want, you’re not addicted to this, you’re just choosing to do it. This isn’t addiction anyway, it’s just a habit, you can break a habit whenever you want’.
Repeated daily.

So my next step was learning to take every thought captive.
There is a reason these verses are in the bible (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

When you stop a thought in its track and acknowledge it, instead of allowing it to run with reckless abandon through your mind, you take it captive. That means it not longer masters you, but you master it.
Yes, it takes practice, this is a discipline that can feel like a full-time job. But it is a job that pays well! It even comes with a dental plan… (I may have just made that bit up. But you never know?).

When you take thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, you are commanding them to fall into submission under the Lordship of Christ! That is no small deal!
It is here that Jesus takes over. It is in this moment that you are choosing to give Him control, to work and weave and mend and heal.

5. WORD!
I found it really helpful to read through the New Testament when I was struggling. And not just reading for reading’s sake, but asking The Holy Spirit to allow the words to come alive in my heart and mind as I read them.
Again, it becomes very difficult to choose poor behaviours when you have chapter after chapter, verse after verse challenging you, giving you step by step encouragement and promptings on how to live well, abundantly.

6. DITCH THE GUILT
I don’t believe that shame and guilt are good motivators toward effective change. I believe instead that they lead to condemnation.
But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, turn them toward Him, just like the old hymn says, the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace!
Glory and Grace, not condemnation and disapproval.

In the 2012 film, Father of Lights directed by Darren Wilson, there is a brief interview with Banning Liebscher of Jesus Culture, where he says:

“….there’s a generation that is experiencing more options than any generation in all of history.
So the tendency to materialism or distraction, is so available….ability, instant access to entertainment and social networks and internet and travel. There are so many options and choices in this generation. generation.

What excites me is that choices are powerful in the midst of options, not in the midst of no options.
And I think we’re going to see the most powerful generation the world has ever seen, come out of an environment that gives them options, and a generation’s going to rise that their “Yes” in their spirit will be so loud, it will drown out everything else.”

His words immediately resonated in my spirit, they told my story.

For me, Banning’s words were more than a prophetic declaration, they were a testimony of what was and is already taking place, for this is exactly what had happened to me during my journey. The ‘YES‘ to God in my spirit, became louder than any ‘NO‘ I would ever have to speak to the world.

That had been my revelation. That “YES” had been my key.

Let me finish by saying, there is hope. There is freedom. There is a light that shines bright in the darkest of places.
There is love, one who is love itself, waiting to enrapture you and lead you in grace.
He who is love, is able to transform you by the renewing of you mind.

Did you catch that? He is not just able, but willing to clear away the garbage in your mind, erasing the memory of all destructive and tempting images, and renew it to it’s created design! Ponder that!
May this be your testimony, because what He has done for one, He will surely do for another.
-Bek Curtis

 

You can hear more from BekCurtis by following her on the Twitterer  or by checking out and subscribing to her blog ‘Perfectly Flawed’

[To read part I of this post, click here]

[For some more stories about people struggling with and overcoming Pornography, click here]

 

For this final part of my series on lies I believed about sex I want to talk about the false expectation many people are given that because sex is intended for marriage, as soon as you get married you will be able to fully express yourself sexually without experiencing guilt or shame. Of the four things I touched on in my Relevant article, this was the one people seemed to resonate with the most.

Many of us who were raised in Christian communities heard some version of this line in an attempt to convince us that sex before marriage wasn’t worth the potential baggage. We were told stories of people who had sex before marriage and how this negatively affected their sexual relationship with their spouses. The message was clear. If you don’t wait, you are setting yourself up for heartache in your future sex life. If you wait, you will enter marriage guilt and shame-free and be able to enjoy sex the way God intended.

I’m not saying that this isn’t true to some extent. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband and I haven’t had any sexual experiences apart from one another. I think it’s a sweet and sacred part of our relationship and I love knowing that it is something we two have uniquely shared only with each other. But in many cases, our hyper-vigilant attitude towards pre-marital sex is very hard to shake once we’re married and it can take a great deal of time to get over the emotional barriers we put in place before marriage.

My struggle with guilt and shame wasn’t because I went into marriage believing that sex was dirty. I had been told since I was a teenager that sex was intended to be a beautiful thing. But when you spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it or being afraid of it, it’s hard not to let those experiences override simple statements like, “Sex is intended as a beautiful thing.”

If you think about it from a basic psychological standpoint, it makes no sense for us to expect people to be able to make such a huge change all in one instant. Many Christians have spent years – from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day- focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then suddenly, in the space of just a few hours, they expect to be able to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that –but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmedourselves to feel guilt towards sexual feelings – this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. But that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers. I have always enjoyed having sex with my husband, but it still took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time we were together.

As bizarre as it seems, I was actually embarrassed that I was no longer a virgin. Even though the whole reason for being a virgin was to enter marriage as a virgin, it had become such a crucial part of my identity that it was hard for me to give up. I had to tell myself over and over, “It’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be a virgin anymore.” But there was a part of me that was sure people were looking at me differently. If losing my virginity before marriage would have made me “like a piece of chewed up gum”, unsuitable for my future husband, how was losing my virginity to my husband supposed to feel different? Wasn’t I just my husband’s chewed up gum? (This is one of many disturbing and objectifying analogies I’ve heard before about why it’s important to save yourself for your spouse.)

Not everyone experiences these feelings,but for the many people who do, it is terribly isolating. Because, once again, we are experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. And we feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

Several people commented on my original article to say, “This is why you shouldn’t wait. Why would anyone want to live that way? It sounds like this totally ruined your ability to enjoy sex.”

I would say to those people that the problem isn’t with the waiting. Waiting, in and of itself doesn’t cause any of this. The problem is this huge gap between how we talk to teenagers and young adults about sex, purity, and abstinence and the expectations we put on marital sex. My husband’s and my difficulties in our sexual relationship stemmed largely from taking what we’d been taught about sex as teenagers and trying to apply it to a marriage.

The problem is two-fold. First, I think our churches need to re-examine how they communicate with teenagers and young adults about this (which I touched on in Part 2) and secondly, churches need to find a way to address the gap between “Don’t do that,” as a young single person and “Sex is the greatest” as a married person. In many churches, there is no mature discussion of sex directed at adults and no conversation whatsoever about how we move from the way we treat sex as singles to the way we’re meant to treat sex as married adults. By not addressing it, we act like this transition will happen naturally, leaving a lot of people isolated, hurt and confused when it doesn’t.

We need to start doing the hard work of addressing these issues instead of ignoring them.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

 [To catch up on the rest of this series, click here]

as the sun goes down

casting ominous shadows beneath an ever-pinkening sky

so the battle lines are drawn

and the protagonists determinedly take their places

facing off with brutal expressions of intent

 

the people passionate about all things cat

are huddled together, talking strategy

ready to throw absolutely everything they have

at the mass of bodies and faces across from them

collectively known as those with a deep care for the environment

who compile and distribute petitions at will

and boycott companies who dare not be green enough

 

those who care so deeply about the children being sold into slavery

prepare for combat by sharpening the axes they brought to grind

every now and then pausing for a moment

to peer over the tops of their spectacles at their opposition

the-artists-with-a-tendency-of-posting-graphic-pictures-of-horribly-slaughtered-poached-animals

on your social media wall

nestled safely in between baby photos and engagement announcements

 

at some point someone fires a gun…
or perhaps it was a whistle?

i’m thinking some form of signal was possibly given

to launch the different groups screaming like rabid dogs at one another

and begin tearing each other apart

[the people who care about dogs suffering from the effects of rabies are at the judges table

loudly arguing about the insensitivity of using such a descriptive phrase]

 

turns out the ‘tearing’ was metaphorical

or virtual or something

but tearing was done

or at the very least, insinuated

as one group with a cause

sized up another group “with a cause”

["but not as important as our cause" each whispered in hushed tones]

[only amongst themselves of course]

 

the fall out

that inevitably ensued

was that “your worthy cause isn’t as worthy as my worthy cause

your guilt is too hip

and you clearly don’t speak for everyone, so your perspective is meaningless”

 

in the midst of all the uproar,

the accusations and the posturings,

the video clips and the event sharings

not to mention time out for the trolling of the comments sections [a group event]

the clouds gathered

the sky opened

the rain came down

and washed them all away

[or at the very least sent them scurrying back to the safety of their computer keyboards]

 

and a lone child was left standing

making the most of some unsupervised time in the mud and puddles that had formed

when suddenly a moment of significance passed

in which an idea seemed to swoop in from far up high in the sky

and lodge itself deep into the brain part of this innocent

who paused for a whole long sixty second minute

as she sought to take it in

looked up

and exclaimed, as if the most natural exclamation in the world,

 

“What if, I was able to view your cause as different to mine, but of equal value and importance?”

 

it was as if a mighty thunderbolt had struck at that precise moment

causing an immediate wave of

lightbulb after lightbulb blinking into existence

as each and every individual in the crowd

marvelled at this ingenious yet ever-so-simple piece of wisdom

 

or at least, it would have

had any of them remained.

but alas, there was no-one else to be seen.

 

as the activists and fanatics,

the poster wavers and the bearers of truth,

all those who championed a cause

at the exclusion of all others

were safely locked away

in the comfort of their lonely rooms

readying their next missive,

this one which would be the one

that would finally get them to realise why they need to climb on board…

 

 

 

 

 

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