I frequently talk with women who are struggling, hurting, or confused because either one particular relationship, or many relationships with other women, have resulted in obsessive, entangling captivity. It’s been a pattern of relating since they were young or, as an adult, a relationship grew to something that seemed to control them in a destructive way.
John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #14 has a line that expresses the answer to why the experience of women being enthralled with each other will never work: “Except you enthrall me, never shall [I] be free.” The craving to be enthralled by someone, the driving desire to have your heart filled up by the emotional and perhaps physical connection with another woman is evidence of your heart being created to worship! Yes, God has created us to worship, to be fully, wholeheartedly enthralled with Another, with One: Jesus Christ. John Donne had it right: Unless we find our deepest satisfaction, comfort, and security in him, we will not be free, and our relationships will be unenthralling more often than not!
Women seeking life in other women—emotionally, sexually, mentally—rather than in Jesus have at least two things in common: They are deeply loved by Jesus who wants to bring freedom and life to their hearts through him. Also, they will continue to experience the ‘captivity of creation’ until they seek life in the Creator.
Do you need a safe place to talk about your struggles, temptations, questions, and hurts in these areas? If so, call us here at Harvest USA. We warmly invite you and will seek to be a safe place for you to process your relational world! Jesus Christ is your Hope, Haven, and Help.
22 May 2009
We usually pray twice a week here in the Philadelphia office. It’s a good time to touch base as many of the staff are out teaching and training more often than not.
I was struck by one prayer offered by Bob Heywood recently. He was to speak to a group of seminarians and wanted to speak in a way that was both winsome and helpful. Since they would eventually pastor congregations, Bob was anxious that he equip them well—especially as they ‘walked into people’s hearts.’
That phrase struck a chord with me. So often church leaders and teachers forget the impact they have on people’s lives simply because of their position! Even when I pick up the phone here in the office, it’s easy to forget that I too have an impact on people—especially if they are working up their courage and calling for help for the first time.
Bob’s words were and are a reminder that we need to take care as we step into someone’s life—either as a pastor or simply as a friend. We need to enter carefully lest we do more damage then good; and we need to be sure that we have actually been invited! Often it isn’t advice that is needed. Often the best help we can offer is our presence, our awareness of their circumstance, and our willingness to walk alongside someone at a messy time in their lives.
We’ve all had someone not just walk into our hearts uninvited but stomp around in great big muddy boots and not even close the door when they eventually left! My thoughts about such people are always less than edifying. Bob’s prayer keeps rattling around my brain, and I hope I never forget it. May I always tread carefully, and may you do the same!
This post was originally placed on the website of Covenant Eyes, www.covenanteyes.org, an amazing internet accountability ministry.
Welcome friend, hope it’s okay to call you friend? It’s fairly personal and we probably don’t know each other but I do want you to know my heart is tender towards you. And while I’m not entangled with pornography, I’m much more like you than different. Yeah, you and I both have been tempted by the desires of our heart to look to creation rather than to the Creator for life, for comfort, for satisfaction in our souls as we seek distraction from something, some one, some feeling.
I dabbled in porn as a junior high girl, before the internet was created so my experience was with magazines I found in my neighbors’ closet. Secret, lingering, and lustful gazes were happening every time I went to babysit and the kids were in bed. My body reacted…aroused by things I’d never seen before. So enticing! So mesmerizing! And…addicting. Amazingly though, those magazines were missing one day when I showed up for my neighborly duties and try as I might, I couldn’t find them! And so…my porn history was cut short to my then-disappointment, but now I shake my head in thankful wonder at God’s merciful intervention.
But I’ve more than dabbled in other addictive, ensnaring habits: food, entertainment, emotionally-enmeshing connections with people and in particular with women. I’ve been the kind of person that Jesus came for: a captive needing to be set free and a broken-hearted woman needing healing. (See Luke 4:18-20 and Isaiah 61:1-3 if you’re interested in his job description!)
Your enslavement to pornography is the fruit of a process that’s happening in your heart friend; or as Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, it is the ‘harvest’ coming in from seeds you’ve sown. When desires and thoughts go astray from a Christ-ward and Word-centric focus, seeds are being sown toward the nurturing of our flesh. I wonder how you made your first click into a porn site? And how long you lingered there? How long it was before you were drinking in and feasting upon the images again? Then when did you reach the sober destination of, “How did I end up here? How in the world have I become so addicted to this stuff?”
You see, God’s promises often come to us with a combination sober warning and amazing hope. Galatians 6:7-8 is a passage I want to urge you to feast upon, to soak your thoughts upon and to take steps of obedience toward: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life!”
For as many women who are addicted to pornography, there are as many paths of sowing seeds that led each one closer to the edge of the pit, and then finally into a seemingly hopeless miry mess, a web of addiction from which escape seems impossible. A lonely heart, a heart in pain seeking escape so as to feel good. Disappointment with life, selfish demands that life flow my way on my terms. Thoughts unchecked and coasting in lust, secretly developed stories of sexual fantasy craving fulfillment. A body that longs for sexual intimacy, and the settling for arousing images that lead towards sex with self. Yearnings for romance with a man or woman, yearning for a person to fill my soul, the easy click into a world of relating where I am queen and have nothing asked of me…or so one thinks. Or so one thinks…seeking life in creation which is sin, will cost us more than we ever imagine and will take us further than we ever want to go. For all of the above, Jesus has come and is a knowing, loving, present Savior, Healer, and Rescuer!
Desires, feelings, pain, dreams, fears, anxieties, soul ache happens to everyone in this world because it’s broken or fallen. This is why Jesus came: to restore creation from corruption and to return us to what we were created for, lives of glory-giving to God—to actually cause 2 Peter 1:3-4 to be reality: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires and participate in the divine nature.”
Friend, there is true, freeing hope for you…it is a person, Jesus. He knows the pains, sorrows, fears, anxieties, longings, and groanings that are in your heart. While porn will smother that pain for a brief time, it cannot heal it, or strengthen you to be the woman God’s beautifully designed you to be! He is your designer and your healer. Will you take the courageous step to be honest about your broken-heartedness, with God and a trusted person in your life? Jesus is saying to you, “Come to me as you are with your pornography enslavement, and I will set you free.” Will you come?
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Lucy sees Aslan, the great lion, for the first time. She was afraid, and rightly so. Lucy whispered to Mrs. Beaver, “Is he safe?” “Safe?” Mrs. Beaver replied, “Of course he’s not safe! But he is good; he’s the King, I tell you!”
Lewis meant for Aslan to be a picture of Jesus—not an exact imitation, but a type. And so this line from the well-loved book has been quoted extensively. I’ve mostly heard it quoted to counter the unbiblical view that following Jesus is a path of ease or boredom. Or the quote is meant to show the ‘wild’ side of God, that he is God, the supreme ruler, and that we can’t contain him in our boxes of comfort. But does that mean that we can’t call him ‘safe’?
I do agree that devotion to Jesus is one of joy and radical surrender, and I do agree that God is God, that he rules and reigns as loving creator and LORD. However, I wouldn’t have said it the way Lewis said it. God is safe, and he is good. In him, our fears, insecurities, and anxieties get swallowed up by the safety of his loving refuge, his very presence. No, he’s not boring, and no, he’s not a genie in a bottle we pull out for our means. This is the radical nature of who he is: He is a powerful king, yet very safe!
“ Keep me safe O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.’ Apart from you I have no good thing!” (Psalm 16:1-2)
Loving people well and living holy lives with our sexuality requires a good, powerful, and safe God. We have one friends! We have One!
04 Dec 2008
Fear is the enemy of love. Fear is the enemy of trust, honesty, sharing of oneself, and thus the enemy of intimacy.
In his book False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, Harry Schaumberg defines this concept of false intimacy as essentially a selfish strategy and self-created illusion for a person to avoid the relational pain inherent in real intimacy by pursuing sexual experiences—whether through fantasy, solo sex, or acting out with another person. False intimacy reveals a deep commitment to controlling or managing actual or potential emotional disappointments or pain and seeks emotional comfort, security, peace, and autonomy over the best interests of another person.
How does Schaumberg’s idea relate to the fears and unbelief in your past or present struggles? Fear is the enemy of love, but love is the enemy of fear. Love and truth fight fear and unbelief. (Does this sound like Yoda of Star Wars or a Haikou poem?) If love is a verb, and living in truth means confession, vulnerability, and self-disclosure, then how are you doing in loving God and others, with truthful self-discovery and honest self-disclosure with others? “Heart work” is the hardest work of all.
Since God accepted you and me when we were still enemies (Romans 5:8,10), what have you been so afraid of? What has distorted your vision of God’s goodness and trustworthiness? How are you seeking honest relationships now?
False intimacy—and the fear that drives it—is endemic in our culture, and not just because of porn, which is an extreme variety of avoiding real intimacy and controlling emotions by using real people. Someone has said that the three rules of a dysfunctional family are 1) don’t talk, 2) don’t feel, and 3) don’t trust. Yet we are called to be true brothers, the real family of God, a community of true honesty, acceptance, and mutual support. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). Jesus is against the fear of false intimacy. “Perfect love cast out fear” (1 John 4:18). And, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The true meaning of Christmas is to set us free from the fears that enslave our hearts.
13 Nov 2008
This weekend, close to 2000 people are gathering in Philly for the annual conference sponsored by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (www.ccef.org). The theme this year is “The Addict in Us All.” There will be many seminars addressing the many facets of addiction. Substances, behaviors, thoughts, relationships.
How do you define addiction? A life-controlling thing? Something that has seized you? One way the Bible addresses addiction is in Hebrews 12:1-2 where followers of Jesus are called to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles” (ESV). Habitual sin, activities, behaviors, thoughts, relationships, emotions that consistently entangle and encumber us from a Christ-centered life.
I’ve never been addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, or even sex—but I have been what we might call a “people addict.” Or, like I said in my first post, an emotional connection junkie. Ed Welch of CCEF says that people are our favorite idols or addictions. We worship people and our relationships when we let them make or break our day, when they rise to the highest place in our thoughts, affections, and energies.
Are you a people or relationship addict? How do people “rule” you, and what has been helpful to you in your relational and spiritual journey to be free of these entanglements? What has helped you learn how to love and not use people?
10 Nov 2008
Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith were hanging out.
Jones says, “Listen to this quote: ‘My heart is restless until it rests in you.'”
Smith laughs and retorts, “Must have been written by a girl.”
Jones, quiet for a while, says, “Well, sometimes I am restless. In fact, last night, I spent three hours looking at porn.”
Smith asked,”Was it good stuff?!”
Jones:”I find that the free porn is okay, but you have to put out the bucks for something satisfying.”
Smith: “Three hours, eh. Must have been some hot stuff.”
Jones: “Naw, it was basically reruns.”
Smith: “So now you’re taking up reading Bible-looking books?”
Jones, holding the leather-bound book, says, “It’s St. Augustine’s Confessions.” Then, after a pause: “From the 5th century A.D.”
Smith: “What the…huh? Who? What are you talking about?”
Feeling dejected and a bit scorned by Smith, Jones left to take a walk with uncomfortable questions poking at his conscience.
“What do I really want?”
“Can I be satisfied with a woman made of pixels—a pixelated woman?”
“Wonder why she did that photo shoot?”
“What does she really want?”
“I wonder if she is as desperate as I am.”
Jones stopped at a park bench. He took up the book, found his book mark, and read the whole quote.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Are you like Jones? Where does your restless heart wander?
And are you satisfied where your wandering heart takes you?
What, Who can satisfy your restless heart?
Tolle Lege—”Take up and read”