Ellen, we never saw ourselves as gay but rather as ‘Anna-sexual’ and ‘Beth-sexual*…this is how we felt about each other. We have never been in love with another woman or man in this way.”

This was the explanation one woman gave about her two-year, secret lesbian affair. Beth, in her forties and married, met Anna, a grad student who was visiting her church. Beth’s marriage to a ministry leader was, in her words, living under the same roof but being physically and emotionally divorced. With Anna, however, she experienced the deeply satisfying emotional oneness she had always craved. Since she had a significant church leadership role, no one seemed to question the intensity of her relationship with Anna. “Everyone just thought we were the best of friends and even envied our ‘connection.’”

Beth’s story contains a thread woven into the experience of many women who struggle somewhere on the spectrum of female homosexuality.[1] This thread is the experience of longing for and securing what feels like an “emotional home” through connecting intensely and intimately with another woman.

Beth’s story. . . is the experience of longing for and securing what feels like an “emotional home” through connecting intensely and intimately with another woman

Beth and Anna’s description of their relationship as being “her-sexual” (to a specific woman rather than to women in general) is what I hear from many same-sex attracted women, and especially from young adult women who’ve experienced their first romantic awakening (and perhaps sexual relationship) with a woman. Many would not have previously self-identified as gay, nor would they express a sexual attraction to women in general. Rather, they are attracted to this woman.

This romanticized (sometimes sexualized) attachment grows as seeds of emotional intimacy are sown and watered, sometimes over a relatively short period. The harvest that results (a feeling of deep emotional connection) feels like “home” for a heart that is hungry and searching for a satisfying, comforting experience of being known, loved, nurtured, safe, and anchored. What feels like home emotionally leads to a sexual relationship that many are shocked to find themselves in. The sexual component that develops feels like a natural expression of the emotional haven and mutual “at-homeness” that has come to characterize the relationship. For many women, the next step of self-identifying as a gay or lesbian woman seems a logical fit.

A National Public Radio segment recounted experiences of older women who pursued their first lesbian relationship after many years of heterosexuality, which included marriage for some. Reflecting on the idea of the fluidity of female sexuality, Professor Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah commented, “It does appear that women’s erotic desires are pretty tightly linked to their emotional feelings [author’s emphasis]. And so for some of these women, they authentically did not really feel attracted to women before they met one particular woman they completely fell in love with.”[2]

Many women will experience at a young age significant “emotional crushes” for other girls and/or older women in their lives (educators, mentors, Sunday school teachers, and youth ministry leaders). These emotional feelings can morph into romantic desires and even sexual fantasies and usually exist alongside strong emotional cravings for verbal affection and affirmation, maternal-like nurture and nonsexual touch. As one woman said, “I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother. When, as a young woman, I connected emotionally and then physically with another woman, that sense of intimacy was overwhelming, and I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t understand what was so powerful in the relationship, but I knew the physicality of being held and of holding another brought me to life—and I wanted more of it.”

In God’s design for sexuality, we are not meant to be sexually fluid

However, in God’s good and loving design for sexuality, we are not meant to be sexually fluid (heterosexual one day, homosexual the next, bi or pansexual or whatever later on). We are not meant to be ruled by our desires or find our truest home in another human being. God created us to live out of an increasingly devoted love for Jesus, unselfishly loving others, and giving ourselves for his purposes in the world. Our sexuality—and how we express it—is meant to be one part of who we are and how we express our “at-homeness” in Jesus Christ.

Unholy attachments (emotional and sexual) between women are attempts to mimic what we can only find in a dynamic, living relationship with Christ. The closest human expression of that is experienced in the oneness of union between a husband and a wife, even in its imperfectness. In fact, it is in the imperfection and brokenness of all human relationships that many women will move toward other women to find what no other human being (female or male) can fully and completely give.

Signs of unholy attachment

If you are a woman who is in this kind of relationship situation, or if you are someone who sees this in a friend, here are some relational dynamics that are indicators of unhealthy attachment between women.

  • Fused lives, schedules, and relational spheres. The relationship begins to feel like a marriage.
  • Exclusivity, possessiveness and a closed circle of two. Other people feel like intruders, as a threat to your harmony.
  • The relationship needs constant clarification of each person’s role in it. One woman will play the needy/weak/take-care-of-me role, and the other will be in the needing-to-be-needed/strong/caregiver role. Fear, insecurity, and jealousy are triggered when one steps out of her role.
  • Maintaining consistent emotional connection is vital. Texts, emails, calls, and time spent together grow and intensify to become life-dominating.
  • Romanticized affection through words and physical touch. Sexual involvement.

These idolatrous “emotional homes” happen between women in Christian mentoring relationships, too! When that happens, the spiritual component in the relationship adds tremendous confusion.

Do you see yourself here, or “almost here?” Do you have a friend who needs your help to move away from an unholy attachment and learn how to cling to Christ for her true home? The next blog post will give some important steps to take.

Click here for Part 2.

 

 

* Names in this article have been changed.

[1] By spectrum of female homosexuality, I’m referring to a continuum that, on one end, you find emotionally enmeshed (idolatrous) relationships that have a romantic/sensual feel to them, to the other end, where you would find a homosexual lifestyle. Female homosexuality is sometimes an experience that is ‘launched’ relationally when an emotionally dependent attachment to someone becomes sexualized.

[2] Diamond, Lisa. “Late-Life Lesbians Reveal Fluidity of Sexuality,” NPR, All Things Considered, August 7, 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129050832&sc=emaf.

For a large majority of men today, the ubiquity of porn on the Internet and its ability to provide unlimited access to it (especially via search engines) means that the issue is no longer, “Have you looked at porn?” but rather, “Are you actively looking at porn?” Many wives may already fear or suspect that their husbands are engaging in pornography.

Looking at porn is not harmless (see the short video of Bob Heywood’s struggle with porn and its impact on his marriage). But the problem is that pornography usage is usually hidden, a closely guarded secret. What if you suspect that porn is impacting your marriage (or your relationship with your boyfriend or fiancé)? Here are some things you can look for, as well as steps you can take to bring healing.

Signs that may indicate usage of porn:

  • Unusual decrease in sexual activity between you and your husband—and increasing relationship distance physically.
  • Mental distance between the two of you. He’s physically present but not mentally there when you seek to engage him.
  • Late-night computer activity, especially a pattern of needing to use the computer after you have gone to bed.
  • He quickly changes the screen when someone comes into the room, and he is spending more and more time on the computer.
  • Secrecy regarding finances, like not letting you see credit card statements.
  • Any gaps in accountability for time and finances.
  • No history on the web browser after he spends time on the computer (keep in mind that private browser windows are pretty standard today, leaving behind zero web history).

What steps can you take?

Viewing pornography is sexual sin and is not “just what men do.” While painful and devastating for any wife to acknowledge, you must honestly face the reality of sexual sin impacting your marriage. Now is not the time to be passive. You have a vital role to play in helping your husband break free.

  1. Know that the Lord has comfort for you! He has not abandoned you or your marriage. Feelings of grief, shock, fear, and despair are normal for the wife who’s just discovered her husband’s porn usage. God is your compassionate Father and source of comfort and strength. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)
  1. See this as a real threat to your marriage. Don’t deny it or hope that it will just go away. Now is the time for you to battle hard for your marriage through prayer, courageous confrontation, and humble reliance upon the Lord.
  1. Talk openly with your husband about your concerns. You may need to acknowledge that this is a common problem for men today, even Christian men, so come alongside him rather than take an oppositional role. Watch for his response to your inquiry. Is there defensiveness, anger, deflection? Check your own heart for self-righteous indignation.
  1. Pray for and seek helpers who can encourage you and pray with you. Seek out godly Christian women or any ministry leader who is a “safe” person for you to talk with (someone who has track record of godly living, is compassionate, and is trustworthy with confidences). Talk with your pastor.
  1. Don’t put yourself in the position of being his “porn police” or primary accountability partner. If he admits he is struggling, tell him to talk to one of his friends or his pastor to set up accountability. If there is a group of men who meet regularly for these issues, encourage him to attend.
  1. Do not think or accept (if your husband suggests) that his porn issue is your fault. He is responsible for his own behavior. His behavior comes from within his own heart (Matthew 15:17-20), and your behavior cannot cause him to look at porn.
  1. Consider marriage counseling with a pastor, counselor, or a trusted couple. This may be a perfect time for both of you to seek assistance to talk through ongoing issues or problems. Couples that do not talk openly about their struggles, needs, and disappointments (especially sexual problems and disappointments) are wounding their marriage. They need to be willing to look deeply at motivations and past events that affect their relationship with each other. Since sexual sin is so dangerous and powerful, it is something which must be dealt with openly—with the help of other Christians. Your marriage will not survive if this is not dealt with and if your husband refuses to seek help.
  1. Run to the Lord as your refuge! Psalm 16:1-2 says that God is your strength, hope, and safe place as you navigate these painful and scary waters in your marriage. You cannot control your husband’s heart or his response to the Lord, but you can bring your own needs, pain, and confusion to him, and you need to!

Christian couples dare not keep sexual sin hidden in the shadows. It will only get worse, and its potential to destroy the marriage is real. The hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we can find restoration, reconciliation, and victory, even over deeply embedded sin patterns. There is hope for deep change and profound healing through the power of Jesus Christ.

We have a great devotional book for wives dealing with this issue in their marriage. It’s called When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart, by Vickie Tiede. You can check it out here.

 

Who is a safe person to share, or confess, your deepest struggles with? Ellen Dykas, our Women’s Ministry Coordinator, gives a good suggestion. (From a Harvest USA Seminar, Discipleship Leader Training.)

This article appeared in our 2015 magazine newsletter. It is being posted here for online reading and for those who may perhaps wish to comment on what it says.

She came into our first Sexual Sanity for Women (SSFW) gathering at our church, crushed, broken, and afraid. I welcomed her in, but felt like the smallest wrong word from me could send her quickly away. Her name was Becca (name has been changed), and she sat on the far edge of the couch, close to the door. It was obvious that if everything became too hard for her, she needed a quick escape.

I began the group by sharing my own painful testimony as a way to connect with the other women. I kept glancing over at Becca, continually praying for her, that God would give her courage to simply stay, for she was right where God wanted her to be. And she did. She stayed.

The second meeting was tougher. As the group members arrived, I could sense each woman laboring under the weight of her struggle. I began to feel my insecurity rise. Had I learned enough from my online group at Harvest USA to really think I could do this? Then I looked again, and I didn’t see Becca. I immediately thought her absence was due to something I said last week. I prayed, “Lord, please bring her back.” As I was praying, someone in the group who knew Becca well called her. “I am coming to pick you up. You need to be here as much as I do. You are not alone. We can walk this journey together, okay?” She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and she went and brought Becca in.

As we ended the lesson, everyone filed out the door except for Becca. She sat there, wanting to talk, but not sure where to start. I quietly sat down beside her and reminded her that this was a safe, confidential place where she could experience grace and healing rather than judgment. Her eyes leveled on me as she decided if she could trust me. She took a deep breath, and then it all rushed out—her story of abuse and heartache, of sin and poor decisions, of guilt and shame, loneliness and despair. As her tears flowed, so did the words that she had trapped inside for so long. Words that she had been afraid to share for fear of judgment.

She felt that no one could understand a story like hers, and if her story ever got out, she would be looked down upon, ostracized. But the story had to come out. She was disappearing inside of herself as she fiercely closed off this part of her life. As she spoke I could see her visibly lighten as she threw off the weight of her silence.

As she ended, her eyes searched mine for some sort of response. Through my own tears, I thanked her for being courageous enough to open up. I told her that, yes, her story was one of sin and sorrow, but it was also one of redemption and change, and that God was already touching her heart, helping her to lay down her experiences at the foot of the cross. I also planted the seed that maybe, just maybe, God would bring her to a place where, one day, she could share with other women struggling in the darkness of their hidden shame.

Little did I know that God would open up that opportunity so soon.

A few days later I got a call. A woman in a small group with whom I had been meeting for over a year had something to tell me. The group was stagnant, meeting more out of obligation than out of a desire to grow together. But something unexpected happened that breathed new life into the group. Becca, the quietest one there, told the group, men and women, that she felt she should share something with all of them. She felt moved to open up to them about portions of her past and present struggles in life.

Becca’s courage to speak ignited an atmosphere of trust and safety in the group. It would never be the same. Over time, every person in the group opened up about their own struggles. And just like that, the group was transformed from a purposeless group of individuals to a close-knit body of believers, joined together to glorify God in the midst of their struggles.

Of course, there is still much healing to be accomplished in Becca’s life. But she is an inspiration to us about the power of God to redeem and change broken people, which is all of us, if only we would be courageous enough to be honest with God and others.

This testimony came from one of Ellen Dykas’ participants in our online training for mentor and group leader classes. For information on what these training classes offer, contact Brooke Delaney at brooke@harvestusa.org.

Updated 5.23.2017

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).

This verse gives us two clear and connected steps to take in finding growth and change from debilitating sexual struggles. The first step is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Having acknowledged your sin before God and a trusted person (see previous blog post), now Jesus commands and enables you to “stand up and walk” by faith. What does it mean to “put on Christ?” It means three things:

  1. Seek consistent fellowship with God through his word and in prayer. This seems so basic that often we overlook it. Nothing, however, can replace cultivating our relationship with Jesus. When sexual sin has been a secret, shame-provoking part of a person’s life, often the heart has been dulled in devotion to Christ. Living water and fresh nourishment must be feasted upon regularly to fill and satisfy a hungry heart.
  2. Cultivate authentic relationships with Christians. Have you noticed that a good part of the Bible’s commands cannot be obeyed unless we are in relationship with other Christians? (See 1 John 1:7, which connects one’s walk with God to one’s walk with other believers.) God has designed our faith to be personal and intimate with him, but not apart from rich involvement in the life of other believers in the church. Do you have at least two people in your life with whom you can allow yourself to be fully known and prayed for? To be encouraged and discipled by? If you don’t, begin asking the Lord for such friends as these. It’s that important!
  3. Seek opportunities to love and serve others. There is grace, comfort, and joy to be poured into us and through us. We were not designed by God to be receptacles but conduits of his love and mercy. Look for opportunities to reach out to someone and show them love and care. For this you were made:“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Did you notice that I’ve said nothing regarding sexual sin in the advice I’ve given? That’s intentional! Most women who have struggled sexually have spent so much time focusing on “sin management” or battling against temptation, that they have neglected cultivating their relationships—with Jesus and with other sisters in the Lord.

Jesus, not the sin itself, must be the one upon whom you fix your gaze as you seek to walk away from sin!

The second step is to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” While cultivating and building up relationships is crucial, especially as a first step, you still need to know how to fight the battle! Overcoming sin patterns, including sexual sin, is never something we “happen upon” or coast into. No, sin must be intentionally fought as we flee temptations and deal directly with the heart issues from which they are triggered.

  1. Identify and then avoid and flee triggers and temptations. What are the situations, influences, people, and emotions which seem to weaken your resolve to obey God? Is it being alone? Watching certain types of entertainment? Anger, hunger, loneliness, boredom, and fear can push us to crumble in the face of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 instructs believers to flee temptation as we receive the escape path he provides. To run on that path of escape increasingly means we must learn to discern when we are creeping near to sin. Ask yourself, “What helps me to sin, and how can I avoid these influences?”
  2. Fast from good gifts which are not good for you. One common struggle we all have is taking good things from God and then worshipping them—allowing them to mean more to your heart than God himself. Are there things that you use or have that, while either enjoyable or useful, are increasingly pulling you into temptation and sin? Your smartphone? Your laptop? Places you are visiting or people you are hanging around with? Will fasting from these things be difficult or inconvenient? Sure. I challenge you to try this. Hard as it might be, this may be a necessary step in order to focus your time and attention on Christ and recapture your thought life.
  3. Refuse to isolate or hide. It’s been said that the power of secret sin is in the secret. To “walk in the light” (1 John 1: 1-9) and to “renounce secret and shameful ways” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6) will mean sharing your life and struggles with others. This path of obedience (and grace!) flows from what I said above about cultivating authentic relationships.

These initial steps, walked out day by day, little by little, over a lifetime, will lead you increasingly into the spacious freedom which is ours through Jesus Christ. All of this is waiting for you. May you find in Jesus the humility to run to him—or be carried to him by others who know you—in order to discover the life you really want.

Updated 5.25.2017

A story from the second chapter of Mark gives a wonderful description of the challenge and glory of how women stuck in the mire of sexual sin can connect with Jesus for the help they need.

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12, ESV)

Many women are like this paralyzed man: desperate for help, but seemingly unable to draw near to Jesus. They are bound up in sin of a sexual nature and are “paralyzed,” unable to move or take action. Stuck in place and helpless. They are hurting, isolated, and terrified to consider talking to anyone in their churches about what is going on in their lives.

Chris came to Harvest USA for help, having recently left her partner of 23 years. She shared that, over the years when she would feel conviction over her homosexuality, she had sought help from pastors and other Christian leaders. Chris shared that most of the time, these leaders would respond to her confession with something like, “You do know, right, that this is a sin? That God is NOT pleased with this?” She said, “I would say back to them, ‘Yes, I do know it’s a sin. . . but do you have any words to help me? To lead me out?’” No one had been able to “pick her up and carry her to Jesus” for the discipleship she needed.

Sadly, overcoming sin of a sexual nature and understanding God’s good design for sexuality are not consistent topics of discussion, much less discipleship, in the church. Many women, like Chris, feel they are just outside the reach of Jesus and unable to draw near to him regarding their private struggles and sin. Some of these women may be ministry leaders themselves, but in terms of personal struggles with pornography, sexual fantasy, and sexual behavior with men and/or other women, they are clueless about how the gospel can help them move in the direction of sexual integrity and freedom.

How can women move from their patterns of sexual sin and the paralysis of faith that accompanies hidden struggles into the healing, forgiveness, and power of the love of Christ?

If you’re stuck on a mat . . .

Here are three initial steps of faith to take if you find yourself stuck and unable to connect the gospel to your sexual struggle.

First, acknowledge that you need help from outside of yourself. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” There is mercy for you, sister, as you turn to God in humility and ask him for help, which means reaching out to a person you can trust to share your struggle with.

Sharing your sexual sin struggle is key, as there is healing and freedom that comes in “naming” it before the Lord in the presence of someone else. The paralyzed man’s need was visible and obvious; yours is most likely secret, unknown to even your closest friends and coworkers. In confessing and asking for help, you are receiving the Lord’s help as you allow friends to carry you to Jesus.

Second, believe the words of God given to Christians: You are forgiven! Stand up! Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Will you believe in his gracious, loving words to you regarding even these areas of sin in your life? He welcomes you, always, at the throne of grace!

Third, pick up your mat and go home! In other words, now walk forward in faith and repentance. Keep fighting! Don’t give up! This is a lifelong aspect of following Jesus: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

My next blog post will unpack what that means. In the meantime, have you been paralyzed like Chris? Have any of these three steps of faith been helpful to you? Let me know.

Updated 5.25.2017

The following is an excerpt from Ellen Dykas’ workbook for women, Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual & Relational Brokenness. Published by New Growth Press. Copyright © 2013 by Harvest USA. This Harvest USA resource can be used in a one-on-one discipling relationship or in a small group. You can obtain this resource at our bookstore, www.harvest-usa-store.com 

What does it mean to be relationally and/or sexually broken? The Bible clearly states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The impact of sin has had a devastating effect on all of creation. One aspect of this utter ruin is that nothing functions in the way our Creator originally intended. Our world is broken. Relational and sexual brokenness thus refers to the sin struggles and temptations that women and men battle against while they live on this earth. Relationships become a prime ground for our idols to be nurtured and developed, as we seek people to be what only Christ can be. Sex becomes a way to medicate the pain within our hearts—or to feel anything at all. Our gender and sexual identity become confused, blurred, and even frightening. All things may have been created through Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16), but no one experiences life entirely according to his good design. Our lives are broken—but the gospel of healing, restoration, and forgiveness has broken into our brokenness!

Women are sexual beings just as much as men are. However, they often experience an even “louder silence” regarding their sexual sin and temptation. The Christian community has taken slow steps in recent years to address issues of sexuality, including addictions of a sexual nature. However, the opportunities for women to have the gospel specifically applied to their areas of relational and sexual brokenness have been few and far between. It’s our hope that Sexual Sanity for Women will provide opportunities for women to gather together and receive encouragement and teaching that will help them to, “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let [them] run with endurance the race that is set before [them], looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).

A few thoughts as you begin to work through this study: Although an individual could journey through it herself, this material is meant to be used in a group setting. There is power in people coming together to walk in the light with one another, confessing weakness and sin, praying for one other, and urging each other on in the calling to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for fleshly desires (Romans 13:14). This process of throwing off sinful patterns of life is just that—a process! This material will assist women to begin that process of freedom and change and gives strugglers a place to start in addressing these deeply held and usually carefully guarded issues.

Many women who wrestle with their sexuality in sinful ways—including promiscuity, pornography, fantasy life, masturbation, and homosexuality—have other heart struggles as well. The Bible is clear that we all live out of our hearts, and yet our hearts have been impacted by living in a sinful world, where people sin against one another in traumatic ways. This study is not meant to provide in-depth counseling for the pain brought on by trauma and abuse. Professional counseling and/or pastoral counseling by wise, mature Christians is highly recommended as part of this process of opening up one’s personal history and struggles. Ultimately, healing and change is the work of our Savior Jesus Christ, who came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captive free—including female captives and daughters of God who are brokenhearted!

Sexual addictions among women are rarely talked about. Women strugglers often feel loaded down with a heavy sense of shame. They feel they are somehow “extra-abnormal” because sexual sin is typically addressed only as a man’s problem. When we consider female homosexuality and same-sex attraction, there is confusion in the way it is discussed and understood. We hear many explanations about why individuals are attracted to the same gender. There has been a major push in the media to say that homosexuality is something that’s inborn and unchangeable, as in, “I was born this way.” Even within many faith communities, there has been growing acceptance of homosexuality as a God-blessed identity—“I’m a gay Christian.”

How does a biblical view inform not only the question, “Is being gay OK?”, but “what is homosexuality?” And does the Bible really address seemingly “private” sexual activities such as viewing and reading pornography or masturbation? And if I truly love and am committed to someone, what’s the big deal in expressing myself sexually with that person outside marriage? Finally, does God really have helpful advice about addictions in our lives, especially those of a sexual or emotional nature?

What we’ll learn (in the sessions that follow) will give us hope and confidence that God’s Word does speak into all these sensitive areas. Through the person of Jesus, God has given us more than a set of rules to follow or a series of steps to complete. He loves us and is actually after so much more than behavioral change. He is able to transform our hearts and minds and grow us into Christlike women!
The gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to every struggler—woman or man, younger or older. And whether the sinful pattern takes the shape of sexual promiscuity with men, women, (or both), homosexuality, emotionally enmeshed dependencies, or habitual sexual patterns (such as masturbation, pornography, or an obsessive fantasy life), God’s Word has hope for real change. This study will explore how these patterns develop and how, through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the truths of the gospel, new Christlike patterns can grow and flourish in the life of any woman.

In Matthew 12: 33-34, we read, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Jesus consistently describes behavior as coming out of the heart of a person. He puts it this way: “The tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33, Luke 6:43–45). He also says that it’s not what we put into our mouths that corrupt us, but what comes out of our mouths (our words) that corrupt us. He says the mouth speaks from out of the heart (Matthew 12:34). What Jesus seems to be saying is that the inner issues are what really drive us, and what we say or do reveals our hearts. Jesus consistently focuses on what’s inside a person, not just on outward manifestations of behavior. He compared the behavior of religious leaders to cups that were clean on the outside but dirty on the inside (Matthew 23:25). Jesus was very compassionate to individuals struggling with sexual sin. He showed great love and compassion to women who are sexual strugglers (Luke 7:36−48; John 4:7–26; and 8:1–11). If you were to encounter Jesus today, you could have confidence that he would not condemn you but would show you love and mercy. You could also be confident to know that he would not focus exclusively on your outward behaviors and sins, but rather on the deeper motivational issues that arise from the core of who you are in your heart. Beginning to deal with your sexual behaviors, relational struggles, and emotional attractions can be very scary and difficult. The purpose of this group is to provide a setting where you can deal with some painful and troubling issues within a caring and supportive group setting.

This study will guide you through a model for understanding behavior called the Tree Model. It’s based on what Jesus said about being able to tell a tree by its fruit. This model will become critical to your understanding of why you do what you do. Remember, God is seeking much more than outward change through transformed behaviors! He is seeking heart change—which means that the deeper, inner issues in your life will be addressed and then “redressed” with the grace and truth of Jesus. True change and healing is possible, as we set our focus on Jesus Christ who has come to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free!”

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise

Updated 4.20.2017

In another excellent article, “God Gives the Best Sex,” Dan Wilson explains that God’s grace for the unmarried is the key to true joy as well as living out a godly sexuality. Because the idea of sexuality is often equated with sexual activity, those of us who are unmarried often miss the rich blessings God can pour out upon us as sons and daughters and as sexual beings. Godly unmarried sexuality is more than a call to abstain from sexual activity. Christ offers treasures to all who seek to live in a way that is pleasing to God as image bearers who are also sexual beings, including the unmarried.

Let us consider godly unmarried sexuality with three questions: What is it? How do we live it out? Why would we want to live it out?

WHAT is godly unmarried sexuality?

When it comes to discussions of sexuality, singles (from the never-married teen, to the senior-something single-again, and all those in-between) are often counseled in these sorts of ways: “Don’t! Be pure! Wait! Hands off!” “Guard your heart!” “It’s really not that great anyway!” “It’s great, but it’s not for you, unless you’re ‘burning’…then get married!”

To a degree, these words ring true. The unmarried are to strive to be sexually pure and chaste—but then so are married folks. Chastity is sexually lived out in a pure way; it is a commitment to keep sex in its proper place. Author Lauren Winner explains in Real Sex that, “…chastity is the free choice to live one’s sexual life in accord with Christian values—therefore everyone is called to live chastely” (p. 134). For the unmarried person, this means a life of purity through abstinence. For the married person, it means a life of purity through faithfulness. All who live in God’s world belong to him (Psalm 24:1, 2) and are designed and called to live a life of purity.

However, there is a profound reality of what godly unmarried sexuality is not. It is not merely about what we are doing or not doing with our genitals! Sadly, sexuality is often reduced to a definition along these lines, but it is crucial to have a fuller understanding of it while also being honest that we are embodied souls. To be an embodied soul means we are image bearers that live on earth in bodies which are created with the capacity for sexual expression. Sexuality involves our whole being—body and soul—and refers to how we experience and express ourselves as sexual beings.

Godly sexuality is something that is pleasing to God, acknowledging the value of God as the giver of sex, while keeping Christ central. While there is much overlap between married and unmarried sexuality, singles’ sexuality has unique features. Here are five basic principles that govern godly sexuality and which we will apply to the unmarried person:

1. It is Jesus-centric and Jesus exalting. In God’s world, Jesus is central to all aspects of life. Life is about valuing God at all times and in all ways. This means that the way we live out our sexuality as unmarried persons will find power and joy as Jesus is the focus of our deepest desires and affections. This does not mean we deny that we have sexual desires or that we struggle to be chaste; nor does it mean that we are condemned if we fall. The core blessings of the gospel are Jesus himself and the cross. As we run to him and cling to him in a radical way for enabling power to live purely and for forgiveness and cleansing when we fail, we are living as godly, unmarried sexual beings!

2. Godly sexuality loves my neighbor as I put others before myself. The second of Jesus’ two great commands—“Love your neighbor as yourself”—is core to godly sexuality inside and outside of marriage. This leads us to not sin against others through participating in sexual sin. This includes our thought lives, our affections, and seemingly “private” sins such as solo sex and pornography. No sin is truly private; others areas are always impacted. I never have the right to honor, esteem, and love myself more than my neighbor, and this includes the how and why of expressing my sexuality. This other-centeredness in sexuality can only be faithfully lived out though radical, self-sacrificing dependence upon Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; Romans 14:7, 8)

3. Godly sexuality is concerned not only with physical relationships, but also mental and emotional attachments. As image bearers we are created for relationship. Holy relationships happen as the vertical (God and us) connects with the horizontal (people loving each other). Our relational connecting and attaching with one another was never designed by God to push him aside, but rather to deepen our love for him as we make much of him together. This means that our relationships are not to be all about striving to make each other feel good, but are to focus on pointing one another to Christ. This “shared love” encourages our hearts and spills out into loving others as well. When a person or relationship becomes the basis of our life, the Creator is pushed aside, and a worship disorder is taking place. This is ungodliness in our express of our sexuality.

4. Godly sexuality involves worship through discipline. In Real Sex, Lauren Winner brings out the rarely discussed concept of chastity as a spiritual discipline meant to align our wills with God’s (p. 124). Here, too, there is an overlap between godly unmarried and married sexuality. Faithfulness to one’s spouse (in thoughts, affections and actions) is not easy! Married or not, walking in holiness requires radical dependence upon Christ. It is a battle! It means a fight against the flesh which Paul explained was always “right there” in him, around him, and beside him (Romans 7:21). As singles seek to express their sexuality without physically engaging in sexual activity, there will be a battle that feels intense on some days, easy on others, perhaps pointless on many. Regardless, in God’s world, godly unmarried sexuality is good!

5. Godly sexuality is not only possible, but good in God’s design. Godly unmarried sexuality is not “Plan B.” It is not an elementary level of sexuality that is graduated from into advanced married sexuality. If that were the case, then Jesus himself was lacking, since he never attained a married level of sexuality. The expression of our sexuality may differ if we become married, but that does not mean that it is somehow “better.” Singles embody their particular gender, and sexuality in godly ways just as married individuals do. Single sexuality is not a deficient sexuality. If God has commanded the unmarried to be sexually abstinent, we can know that without a doubt that this abstinence is good and possible.

HOW is godly unmarried sexuality lived out?

Biblical wisdom is practical, but unfortunately teaching singles regarding sexuality is often given in sterile, bullet-point lists that focus on the externals of what to do and not do. Singles are normally just given boundary lines of what is not permissible or told what types of relationships are not acceptable. Yet there are many unanswered questions because many activities can be shifted into “gray areas” not addressed by this type of behavior-oriented teaching. For example:

  • Do we label it dating, courting, or ‘hanging out’?
  • What about the types of physical contact that are considered “sex?” Most people know genital sexual intercourse is off-limits for the unmarried, but what about solo sex, mutual stimulation, or oral sex?
  • And how does this relate to relationships with our same gender? Is it permissible for two women to snuggle up while sharing a bed, experiencing sexual arousal from the physical affection, but not going any further? And what of two men who have no genital contact, but sexually arouse one another? There is no intercourse going on, but how can we tell if these kinds of things are permissible for the unmarried person?

To address these thoughts, we need to go back to what godly unmarried sexuality is: Godly unmarried sexuality exalts Jesus, puts others before self, is good, and reveals Christ to others.

To discern biblical wisdom regarding any of the above questions, the key issues become: “Is Jesus and worship of him central or is the self-ruling? Is Christ and love for him ruling, or am I more concerned with how far I can go? Is this action or thought leading me to love this person as a daughter or son of God, or is it a means to feel good?”

In Christ’s world, God gives the best sex. Sexual intercourse is meant to be experienced only within the context of a one-man, one-woman married union. Any actions or thoughts that lead toward sexual arousal (which God intended to be fulfilled through sexual intercourse) are not to be participated in outside the context of marriage. Does that mean a hands-off, no-touch guideline unless you are married? For singles it may mean exactly that! Radical devotion to Christ requires radical obedience because we want Christ and not our sexual pleasures to be exalted most of all.

Singles might say, “But we don’t have a ‘legal outlet’ for our sexual desires or for the powers that rage in these human bodies! What are we to do?!” This is an excellent question and needs to be addressed with biblical wisdom that is Christ-centric and shared with a compassionate tone of heart. It is true that those of us who are unmarried embodied souls still have sexual desires.

A gospel-drenched, Christ-centric view of our sexuality, however, gives great enabling hope on this point! We are not held captive to our bodies or to our sexual desires. Godly unmarried chastity, like many spiritual disciplines of abstinence, involves something normal and natural being abstained from. Chastity for the unmarried person is a kind of fast, and it may be a very looong fast. Winner’s thoughts here are encouraging: “…the unmarried Christian who practices chastity refrains from sex to remember that God desires your person, your body, more than any man or woman ever will. With all aspects of ascetic living, one does not avoid or refrain from something for the sake of rejecting it, but for the sake of something else. In this case, one refrains from sex with someone other than one’s spouse for the sake of union with Christ’s body. That union is the fruit of chastity” (Real Sex, p. 129).

What of our emotional desires? Do singles need to also be wise about the emotional intimacy they extend and pursue with others? Yes, but again this is an area where the married also need to practice wisdom and caution in their relationships (including some gender ones!) with those who are not their spouse. What I am not saying is that we shy away from revealing ourselves emotionally to each other. What I am saying is that the way we reveal, express, and share our emotional selves is also to be guarded. Ask if the goal of the particular relationship is oriented toward the self or love of God and others. I have found that a top “Jesus replacement” in my life is emotional comfort and feeling good about myself. This aspect of my own heart’s being prone to wander has led to some very unholy, emotional attachments with women and a few men, too.

It is actually good news that what God commands and says is good is possible through the blessings of the gospel. Godly unmarried sexuality is “Plan A” for those of us who do not have a spouse.

More on the “HOW”: Sober promises and specific wisdom

Galatians 6:7-8 speaks of God’s harvest principle: We inevitably reap what we sow. Despite this, God’s grace and mercy often give us harvests of blessing that we do not deserve. It would be an abuse of his grace, however, to not heed Scripture’s many sober promises. Consider two in light of godly unmarried sexuality:

  1. To pursue sexual expression outside of God’s design will lead to sorrow! (Psalm 16:4)
  2. Blessings will be missed and grace will be forfeited when we seek to trust in ourselves and our own strategies for dealing with our sexuality. (Jeremiah 17:5-9, Jonah 2:8)

God’s Word teaches that when we live life outside of his guidelines, including our sexuality, there is a harvest that we reap. Sexual desires, once stoked and given into, will be much easier to be given into again. Our thought lives record experiences, and it is not easy to forget past sins—especially if they were pleasurable. Regaining the mind for Christ is a battle. It is a winnable battle for sure, but the renewing process requires a radical approach. Living a chaste life sexually diminishes the negative harvest of sin. Does this sound like a tactic to “scare you” into unmarried chastity? It is not meant to be, but it is a sober warning! It is what God’s Word teaches us will happen when we put on SELF to the neglect of putting on Christ.

As a former co-worker used to say, Christ our Savior is a specific Savior! He enters into our journey as unmarried sexual beings with very specific help and wisdom. To live a pure life, we need him to be our specific Savior for our specific struggles. Consider what he offers us as we seek to live a godly life sexually. As you read this list and ponder these verses, honestly bring your specific points of temptation or consistent sexual struggle before him.
Jesus :

  • Gives you himself (John 14:18).
  • Knows and loves you in your temptation (Matthew 26:34, 35).
  • Names you: mine, loved, forgiven, one who receives new beginnings from my hand.
  • Enables and empowers you with an escape to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Gives wisdom and discernment (Colossians 2:3).
  • Gives you brothers and sisters to help and shepherd you. These brothers and sisters are his kingdom community for you on earth that he gives to teach, counsel, comfort, guide, and love you (Hebrews 3:12, 13; 10:24, 25).
  • Gives you a kingdom calling to be lived out this side of heaven that will bear much fruit for his glory. This has everything to do with living in godly unmarried sexuality! We abstain from certain things, but also fully participate in others—like his holy work in this world (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:9-10; John 15:5).

Actually, point number one above summarizes the entire list: Jesus gives us himself, and he is the path and provision for us to live godly lives.

How can we respond to Jesus with wisdom? We each need to have a specific battle plan. Again, as you ponder the following list, bring your specific areas of struggle, temptation and/or consistent areas of entangling sexual sin before him.

You need to be:

  • Growing in a love for God and others that abounds in knowledge and insight (Philippians 1:9-11).
  • Learning how to starve the flesh and feed the Spirit as you seek to understand what a “radical approach” will look like in your circumstances. For example, analyze the kinds of music, movies, and TV shows you engage in, taking note of their influence on you (Galatians 6:7-8).
  • Aware of your body, since we are embodied souls. For example: Women, you need to know your hormonal cycle and be aware of what times of the month you may be more prone toward sexual desires being stirred up. Men, you need to know as well how your bodies react to certain visual, tactile, and audio stimuli. Reflect on how God is calling you to love him through the use of your body.
  • Willing to NOT PLAY GAMES with sexual temptation and call it “grace.” This is an abuse of grace, and it is not worth it.
  • Giving others “meddling rights” into your life. Invite friends to ask you the tough questions (James 5:16; Ephesians 4:15).
  • Studying, savoring and praying God’s Word (Ephesians 6:18).

WHY would we want to live it?

Godly unmarried sexuality is lived out as a person seeks to live life fully given over to Jesus and his kingdom purposes, while also living a chaste lifestyle as a female or male image bearer. Through this beautiful calling, the unmarried person reveals Jesus and draws others to Jesus. At the most practical level, the sexuality of an unmarried person should be expressed in such a way that it is a signpost to Jesus. While godly married sexuality is a unique signpost to Jesus and his relationship with the church, the unmarried person also has a unique opportunity to reveal Jesus’ power and purity and to draw others to him.

The unmarried person is called to depend upon Christ, not enjoying the sexual pleasures of marriage, but finding pleasure in abstaining that aligns his or her will with that of God. This 24/7 fast draws attention to the enabling grace of Jesus to live a godly life as a single person. It involves resisting and refusing the loud voices of the flesh and our culture that screams, “Make much of me and run full force toward whatever feels good!” The unmarried person seeks to proclaim Jesus by living a life that is radically other-centered and committed to his kingdom purposes. This kind of obedience can only be faithfully lived out through radical self-sacrificing, dependence upon Christ—as such it is a life lived solely by grace!

Updated 4.24.2017

God calls us to live in community, so we should consider how to love and care for one another. Here are four thoughts for the married and unmarried members of the church to ponder as we seek to love our unmarried sisters and brothers in Christ and encourage them in godly sexuality.

The first two points apply to married people as well. We should remember that God’s truth on how to love and encourage others crosses over all age, cultural, and circumstantial distinctions and life situations. Personalized love should be shown to every person.

Consider how Christ-centric and gospel-filled ministry to the unmarried can be guided by these four principles:

1) A kingdom mindedness

Jesus’ command to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) is a foundational truth. The Kingdom of God includes many realities. Here is a partial list: (a) love and loyalty for the King; (b) receiving the reign of the King in our lives (struggles, decisions, relationships, affections, etc.); (c) love and service to other kingdom citizens; (d) good works the King has prepared for each citizen to do (Ephesians 2:10); and (e) participation in the mission of the King and his kingdom. Our mission is that all the nations of this world will be blessed by hearing the gospel of grace and forgiveness in Christ.

When a church—leaders, adult education committee, women’s and men’s ministries, etc.—attempts to plan a ministry to the unmarried without Kingdom mindedness, that ministry can easily become focused on the here and now rather than the bigger picture of what God is up to in this world. When ministry is only planned around a focus on the present, good discipleship tools offered for singles (social groups and activities, counseling, seminars, conferences, etc.) will tend to encourage a perspective that implies, “We are singles who happen to be followers of Jesus,” rather than, “We are followers of King Jesus and citizens of his kingdom who happen to be unmarried.” There is a huge difference!

Our goal is not to make our unmarriedness ‘work’ or to be manageable while we live on this earth. Our goal is to seek first the Kingdom of God as we live in an unmarried state! When a kingdom of God heartbeat pulses throughout a local church family, it will change the way the unmarried are encouraged, discipled, counseled, and exhorted.

2) A foundation of family—God’s family!

It is significant that each local church not only disciples from a Kingdom-of-God mentality, but with a conviction that radically new, relational realities come with the gospel. We are sons and daughters of the Father, and thus are brothers and sisters to one another! Jesus said in the presence of his own family, including his mother, “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:47-50). In Christ, we are entrusted with the gift of being true family to one another. This does not deny the beauty of marriage or human families. Rather, it elevates the spiritual reality of Christ’s blood creating a family of His own.

Effective and fruitful ministry to the unmarried will not seek to downplay the beauty and sanctity of marriage. However, there is cause for healthy examination of whether the local church idolizes marriage with questions, such as:

  • Do we as a church view each other more as fellow church members, rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ? Do categories such as married, unmarried, single-again, widowed, and college/career signify ‘identities’ in our church, or do we view each other first as fellow Christ-lovers who happen to be single, married, etc.?
  • Am I intentional and purposeful in seeking to love, know, and serve others who are in a different life situation than I am?
  • For the married: Is our family closed or inviting? Do we only spend social time with others who are married? Do we teach our children that the ultimate goal is to grow up and have a family, or that the ultimate goal is to seek the Kingdom of God and to love him with all our hearts and lives?
  • For the unmarried: Do we draw attention to our singleness to the point that the radiance of Jesus through us is smothered? Do we complain against and despise the will of God in our lives? Sometimes those of us who are not married are distracted from who we are in Christ because we do not have a ring on our finger. This is not living out our identity as a son or daughter of God!

Last year I attended a seminar at a local church that was focused on the theme of relationships. It was clearly publicized towards the married, dating, and singles. Singles were encouraged and welcomed to come. The teaching was biblical and mainly focused on the relationship of marriage. However, the way in which the seminar was run led me and several other unmarried folks to feel extremely uncomfortable! After each teaching session there was a ‘discussion time’ in which couples went off alone to share together what they were learning.

Those of us who were single or at the conference alone, however, were instructed to stay in our seats and to ponder how to apply the principles in our relationships. This was not necessarily a bad approach, but it seemed like my unmarriedness was being put under a flood light as I sat there by myself, while most of participants went off to have an intimate discussion. Two words sum it up: awkward and lonely! Had it not been for the two dating-each-other friends with whom I was attending the conference, the next day’s sessions would have been absent of at least one unmarried woman.

My experience at that seminar is the way many unmarrieds feel every Sunday when they go to worship. However, lest this sound like whining, the unmarried, along with the married, must not only live out of a Kingdom mindedness and an understanding of the family of God, but promote it. Both singles and married people need to focus on making their church function like a family.

3) Biblical wisdom

We must be faithful to present the wisdom of God as we disciple and counsel the unmarried. It has been said to me, “Well, after all, singleness really is about selfishness!” and, “Well, when you’re content with God alone, then you will get married!” Such words are not only unhelpful but unbiblical! Singleness can indeed be governed by selfish desires, but so can marriage! Learning contentment in God should not have as its goal the getting of what we really crave and desire.

Biblical wisdom will:

  • Put Christ first as King, Healer, Forgiver, Companion, and the One who is always loving and worthy of being trusted, followed, and served.
  • Teach that we and our situations do not belong to ourselves but to him, and thus we do not have the right to ‘do with it’ what we want.
  • Not shy away from rich truths that God desires to reveal through those who are unmarried and surrendered to him. (See 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 32-33, 35; Matthew 19:12; and Isaiah 56:1-7. Also listen to John Piper’s sermon on Isaiah 56 at www.desiringgod.org.)
  • Seek to draw those of us who are unmarried towards Christ and trust of him, rather than to appease us or only soothe the struggles we experience as unmarried persons.
  • Teach and exhort us about having a radical approach to our sexuality. For this to happen, biblical wisdom must be applied specifically to specific individuals!

4) Specificity in view of a person’s circumstances of unmarriedness

Someone close to me said, after a 14-year marriage ended in divorce, “I feel like I’ve been dropped in a foreign country. I don’t want to be here. I don’t know how to act or relate to others.” Another friend honestly shared with me, after hearing me teach on singleness to an audience of married and unmarried women, “Ellen, I don’t know how to relate to singles. I feel uncomfortable around them.”

A recent informal survey that I gave, entitled “How can the church best minister to singles?”, revealed that there are as many ideas on how to encourage and love the unmarried as there are people! What was obvious, however, was that unmarried and married respondants both agreed that ministering to the unmarried is not about primarily speaking to their singleness, but about Christ! This was said in a variety of ways, pointing to the need for solid teaching which exalts (a) Christ, (b) his Kingdom purposes, (c) the gifts that he has entrusted to all his followers, and (d) kingdom community among believers that is honest and family-of-God oriented.

God’s family loves by knowing others in specific ways. This is important as we seek to love unmarried people: We must know them well and specifically! The struggles, temptations, dreams, and desires of a 25-year-old person who has never been married may look and feel very differently from a 55-year-old who has children and finds herself single again. The unmarried 35-year-old virgin will have different issues than the 35-year-old who has been sexually active from age 15. To have a ‘generalized’ plan and script that serves as a coverall for anyone who is unmarried is dangerous—and unhelpful!

We should seek to minister the specific love and wisdom of Christ, to the specific struggles and needs of the unmarried we know. Here are some examples:

  • If you are unmarried, be willing to be ministered to through not only encouragement but also by being challenged, exhorted, and asked the difficult questions. Are you allowing yourself to be known and held accountable? Also, are you reaching out to other unmarrieds? Are you pointing each other to Jesus more than some new person to date or marry? Are you exhorting each other to not ‘play games’ with sexual temptations or unholy emotional attachments?
  • When speaking with singles, we all need to be asking questions like, “What is your experience as an unmarried person? In what ways are you misunderstood by others? How is Christ revealing himself to you through being ‘his alone?'”
  • Churches need to have honest, direct, and biblical teaching and preaching on sexuality and sex that addresses married and unmarried realities. This teaching must go deeper than statements like, “Don’t!” “ Wait!” “You need to change your desires or behaviors or dreams!” “Have you tried searching online Christian communities?”
  • When speaking with individuals who find themselves single again, be courageous, and prayerfully ask how they are walking out the call to be sexually abstinent. This requires wisdom for sure, but many people struggle in secret and with a sense of deep shame and defeat.
  • Matchmaking might be desired by some and not by others, so ask if a person would like assistance in the prayerful discovery of others.
  • Be willing to use odd numbers in groups and not just even ones (i.e. couples) when planning a social event. Remember, we want to promote the concept of our being the family of God.
  • Build relationships with the unmarried who just have “let’s hang out together” friendships, not only those oriented around mentoring.

Much of the prior advice seems very basic, but for some reason churches seem to organize and complicate the simplicity of living as the community of Christ. Our goal is not to “fix” singles, but to discover how each one of us is able to best glorify Christ with the unique gifts he has given us in our particular circumstances.

Updated 4.28.2017

The fourth testimony in our series is written by ‘Emily,’ who writes, “I let go of a gay identity when I embraced my true identity in Jesus.”

Growing up Delaware, I never had any crushes or broken hearts on guys or girls. In high school, I began watching documentaries on public television about same-sex attracted people and found myself drawn to them. Into the void left by an undeveloped sexual preference, I began to place a preference on being gay as a sexual option, which I thought offered a stronger connection to others. It was this sense of connection that drew me in, along with the knowledge that being gay would give me a sense of identity. An attraction to women developed, but through my early college years in Los Angeles, I never pursued a relationship.

During that time I became a Christian, but after dropping out of college and entering the workforce, I began attending a gay-affirming church which taught that homosexuality was a God-blessed option. On my first visit, I fell in love with a woman wearing a tie-died T-shirt who was playing guitar for the worship team. Suddenly, my visit to this church took on a whole new emotional spark. I came out, was accepted as a lesbian, and made friends with others who embraced being both gay and Christian.

I began dating the woman with the tie-dye T-shirt, and that relationship continued off and on for several years. During that time, I struggled with a feeling that what I was doing was wrong. Even while I was thrilled with the relational connections I was making with other gay men and women, this feeling of wrongness never left me. I ended my relationship with this woman several times for this reason, but I kept asking her to come back. Finally, the relationship ended, once and for all.

I later moved back to Delaware and began attending a Sovereign Grace church. This church had just finished a series called Different by Design, and I immediately bought a copy of the sermons. They were about how men and women were created to be equal but were different. I learned how all of creation is ordered by the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church. I saw how marriage between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, turned creation on its head.

I repented of my gay identity and began actively learning about marriage and what it would mean to be relationally committed to a man. Three months later, I met the man who would become my husband, and a year after that we married. I love my husband, and I enjoy the sexual relationship we share.

I still struggle with same-sex attractions. I still find women attractive, but I keep my eyes from lingering on their images in my mind. My strongest lesbian inclinations now only exist in my dreams. I sometimes awaken, longing for the connections provided by a gay identity, but I know now that there would be no sense of peace if I embraced that. I also know that my identity must be in Christ, and that is something I must keep my mind focused on. I have always longed to be known in a deep way. Whereas before I filled my longing to be known through the connections I made in my gay relationships, I now find that I am known deeply—by my husband and by God.

Updated 5.19.2017

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