by John Fort
Be Broken Director of Training
Let’s be honest, there are certain questions we hope our children won’t ask. We are not bad parents for feeling this way. We don’t want to give our children unwise or uninformed answers. Part of our fear of answering difficult questions comes from a place of wanting to give good responses, but not always knowing what those are.
When a child asks a question about transgenderism, however, they do need a response. This means we need to be ready to reply. The good news is, a good response to questions about transgenderism does not need to be complicated.
The word “transgender” encompasses a sea of ideas, questions, thoughts, and situations, which is why it feels so confusing to us. The concept of gender is changing so rapidly in our culture that it feels impossible to keep up. It probably is, but that is okay.
A simple answer to questions about transgenderism does not exist. However, a simple answer is not what our children need. Our children need to learn to process complicated questions like, “What is transgenderism?” That is something we can teach.
Questions about transgenderism can come in many forms. Kids hear people all around them talking about gender in ways they don’t really understand. It leads to questions like the following:
You don’t have to understand all the issues to help children process these questions.
The first step when a child asks a question about gender it to invite them into your calm. Joining a child in their chaotic feelings will make them feel unsafe. When a child asks a question about gender—or any difficult question for that matter—slow down, take a deep breath, and relax your body. Move to a state of calm before you even try to respond.
If you feel fear, anger, or frustration rising up within you, deal with that first. Those are reactions that will not help your child. Relax before you talk.
If you are worried that you will not be able to react calmly to this kind of question, then start now practicing the discussions outlined below with other adults. Repeat these conversations until you can respond to the questions listed above and still feel calm.
Your First Actions
Before saying anything you should do something with your body that signals to your child that it was good that they asked you this question. Move closer to them. Face them. Kneel down if your child is still young and small, to get on their level.
Pause and let them see your face before you talk. Smile at them before you speak. Maybe even hug them.
Your body says more than your words, so use your body well.
Your First Words
The first words out of a parent’s mouth in response to this kind of question is very important. Our first words are more important than all the rest that follow. Our first words tell our child whether we are safe people to bring difficult questions to.
Here are some examples of really good first words to say:
Next we ask questions to better understand why our child is coming to us. It is very normal for us to worry when our child asks a question about something like transgenderism. We worry what influences have already affected them and we worry that our child may be struggling with gender themselves. It is normal for a parent to have these concerns.
Part of us may want to launch into a long lecture in hopes we can cover up the things we are worried about. Kids are not fans of lectures, however. It is unlikely that we would know what to say anyway without learning more from our children first. Questions are much more helpful.
We need to learn where our child’s question is coming from before we know how to respond. We also want to know what thoughts our child has been considering before they came to us. Here are some discovery questions you might ask:
We want to ask gently rather than make our child feel interrogated. We might even add that we are asking because want to be sure we really understand their question. Children want to be understood and this will make them feel cared for.
Critical Thinking Questions
After asking discovery questions parents may be tempted to launch into a teaching moment. That isn’t necessarily inappropriate, but there is another way. We can use questions to direct their thinking to the underlying concept of gender.
Here are some critical thinking questions for younger kids:
Here are some critical thinking questions for older kids:
We want to ask lots of questions before we make statements of our own. We want to engage our child’s mind and heart first. Even when we do share our thoughts, it is best to be short and concise rather than give a long lecture.
Here are some thoughts we might sum up with. These may be repeating things our child said when we asked them questions like the above, but repetition can be good.
Affirm Your Child’s Gender
An issue American kids face is that our culture has very narrow definitions of what it means to be male or female, masculine or feminine, compared to most of the world, and compared to the Bible.
In the Bible men hugged, kissed, danced, and played musical instruments. Women in the Bible risked their lives to save others, led armies, killed evil men, ran businesses, and built cities. It is not uncommon for the boys and girls in our culture who live most like men and women in the Bible are the ones who our culture would suggest don’t act like their gender.
All children need to be affirmed in their gender. All children sometimes feel insecure in their gender. We should regularly affirm the way God made them to live our their masculinity or femininity.
Here are some things you could do:
When My Kid is Confused
This blog does not address children who are confused about their own gender. That is a much longer topic to deal with. However, we want to point any parent in that situation to some sources of help. Here are two resources you might consider:
Children do not have questions about gender just once. Like all of us, children circle back to questions over and over and need to process their questions repeatedly. We can help them.
Perhaps bring the conversation up yourself sometime. We could ask, “What are you hearing about gender these days,” followed up by, “What do you think about that?” This keeps the conversation going.
Again, our kids do not need a lecture, they just need help processing their questions and feelings. We can do this best by asking each other questions and having open and honest discussions.
We should also keep affirming our children’s gender the entire time they are in our care. A single affirmation is never enough, especially in the world we live in.
You will mess up these conversations from time to time. No parent is perfect. Your kid does not expect perfection and will forgive you when you apologize. Let’s simply work together to keep these conversations going.
Sex & Anxiety: Teen Edition A series of very short videos for adolescents and parents to go through together. This series helps families address the kinds of things that commonly cause anxiety around sexuality for adolescents.
by John Fort
Director of Training
Most parents today are aware their children face numerous dangers to their sexuality. Parents know it will take work to protect their kids from outside influences. When I am speaking to parents I don’t spend much time trying to convince parents their kids need help because the parents who come already know. What parents usually do not understand, however, is how important their own story is as a tool for protecting their child.
Instead, parents are usually afraid that their children might find out about their past. Whether we are fathers or mothers, we are afraid that if our children knew the poor choices we made in our own past they would no longer respect us. Or we fear that telling our children about something we did with our sexuality will make them think it is okay for them to do as well. Most of the time telling our child about our past does exactly the opposite.
WHY YOUR KIDS NEED TO HEAR YOUR STORY
In 2019, Be Broken took a survey of Christian teens to find out why so many church-going families did not talk about sex at home. We looked for obstacles to overcome so teens were more willing to talk about sex with their parents. When asked what they feared most about talking to their parents about sex there were only two answers teenagers gave:
This was an anonymous, written survey that was supposed to be private, but one boy, who looked about 14, just blurted out,
“We just want to have a punishment-free conversation!”
When asked what things they would want to be in place at home for them to feel comfortable talking with their parents, these were their answers:
This means that the Christian teenagers we surveyed wanted more openness, including about their parents’ past. They are afraid to say this to their parents, but not afraid to say it on an anonymous survey.
The fact is children and teenagers do struggle with sexual feelings and want to talk about it. The fact is when a child discovers their parent struggled with the same thing they are struggling with it makes them feel understood by their parent, not more distant. The fact is, when a parent shares their story it is the story that connects the parent and child, more than anything else can.
Here is a quote from a 15-year old who struggled with pornography and his comments about hearing his dads story as he started working to resist porn:
What I really want to know is that my parents have gone through the same things as me. Knowing my parents have gone through similar things makes me feel less abnormal. Knowing they went through, and maybe got through, what I’m going through gives me more hope.
Our children do (or will) struggle with sexual feelings they don’t know what to do with. They will not always manage their sexuality in the most mature way, just as we didn’t. We’ve already seen that kids don’t think their parents will understand how they feel when it comes to sexuality. If they never hear our story, including confusion we had about our sexual feelings as well as mistakes we made, they will believe we don’t understand them. They will feel more isolated.
Sharing our story is the leverage to open the door to healing conversations about sex with our children. Children don’t look down on their parents for failures we had as children, they admire us for having the courage to admit it. Sharing something as personal as the feeling we got the first time we saw a naked image throws the door open to a deeper relationship with our child. Sharing our exposure to pornography and mistakes we made with our sexuality makes them feel, as the teenager above put it so well, less abnormal.
WHEN TO SHARE
Kids today are typically exposed to sexual information and situations earlier than previous generations. Here is a guide a therapist gave me for parents to use to know when to start different conversations about sex:
What does that mean? Most kids are exposed to pornography accidentally or because a friend showed them. If this happened to you when you were 10, then you need to start talking with your child about pornography when they are 8. Today, over 50% of children see pornography before they are 11, and a lot of those are by 8, if not sooner.
Just because you don’t think your child has been exposed to pornography does not mean they have not. Only 7% of girls and 9% of boys tell their parents when they are exposed to pornography. They are afraid they will be in trouble, even if it was not their fault. Parents have to tell our story with porn to prove to our kids it is safe for them to share their story.
Whatever you are willing to talk about in a healthy way with your kids signals to your kids that it is okay for them to talk about it, too.
Pornography is just one thing we can use our story to leverage conversation. Hearing sexual jokes, seeing a non-pornographic nude image somewhere, hearing older kids talk about sex, and sexual experimentation or abuse are all things we can share about if we experienced them. Most of these things, like coming across a nude image somewhere, are things all children experience.
We tell our stories when we realize our child is old enough to experience the same thing.
WHAT TO SHARE
There are some important guidelines to sharing our story with our children.
No Secrets. Never tell your child something about you that your spouse does not know or that you do not mind them knowing. It is never okay to put a child in a position where they feel they have to keep a secret about one parent from the other parent.
Age Appropriate. We only share what is appropriate to share with our child at the age they currently are. This means we may tell the same story again later with more detail.
For example, let’s say we realize we need to talk about pornography with our child because they are 8 and could be exposed at any time, if they have not been already. We might say something like, “When I was a kid one of my friends showed me pictures of naked people. It gave me funny feelings inside but I was afraid to tell my parents. I want you to tell me if you see something like that so we can talk about it. You will not be in trouble for telling me.”
When the same child is 11 or 12 we might retell the story but then include how we went back and looked at pornography ourselves later on purpose and needed help to stop. This gives the child permission to tell you if the same thing happens to them.
No Details. We do not want to paint a picture in our child’s head. We share broad categories of our past behavior. We can use words and phrases like, naked images, masturbation, jokes about sex, stories about sex, and so on. This makes sure our child understands what we are talking about but does not go into graphic detail.
Watch Their Reaction. If you see your child’s eyes grow wide, their face turn white, and their mouth drop open, it is probably time to stop talking. You know your kid better than anyone. You can tell when they are feeling shocked and overwhelmed. If they start to feel this way you should stop and comfort them. Ask how they are feeling. Ask if they need to stop talking about this for today. You can always come back to the conversation a different day.
AFTER YOU SHARE
Questions. After you share your story, always ask them if they have any questions or if they want to say anything. Your story may remind them of a question they had about sexuality that they’ve been wanting to ask. Your story may be the lever that gets your child to come to you with questions they need answers to. Or they may share that they too have experienced what you just shared. If so, be ready to comfort them and support them.
I am Safe to Tell. Next tell your child that you want them to tell you if what you shared, or something similar, ever happens to them. Assure them that they will not be in trouble if they tell you, even if it was their fault. This is really important and is explained more in this blog post from CovenantEyes.
Do Something Together. Instead of each of you running off to do your own thing after you share your story, do something together. Make sharing stories something your child associates with bonding with Mom or Dad. Take them to ice cream, watch a fun movie together, build something together with Legos, or whatever your child likes to do.
I understand that most parents are afraid for their children to find out anything about our own sexual past. But if we hide our story from our children we are cheating them out of what we have learned as a result. We are refraining from using the most powerful tool to opening up healthy conversations about sexuality. We are leaving our children to believe we don’t understand how they feel, when we do.
I encourage you to think of something your child could experience at their age that you have gone through. Then plan a time to get alone with them to share that part of your story. Have a plan of what you will do afterward that is fun. If you are nervous, practice telling your story to your spouse or another adult. You child is waiting.
For more resources, visit our Family Care Resources.
by John Fort
Director of Training
It is a familiar story: a person struggles with sexual brokenness, they finally get help, their life changes and they experience real freedom, then months or years later they find themselves struggling once again. It can feel like nothing works. It can feel like we are too broken to be fixed. It can feel like maybe God doesn’t care enough to help in the long term.
None of these thoughts are true; they are misguided. The misunderstanding that occurs is when we come to believe that the successful outcome of seeking help for sexual brokenness is to stop emotional pain or a specific behavior. This is true for any form of sexual brokenness, including a betrayed spouse, sex addict, survivor of sexual abuse, or child struggling to resist temptation.
The goal of healing is not to stop negative feelings or even behaviors.
Journalist Johan Hari said in his Ted Talk, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is human connection.” Changing behavior is something we want, but not the goal. I believe the same is true when dealing with the emotional pain that comes from sexual brokenness.
There are multiple steps to healing from sexual brokenness. In the beginning, we do have to do some work in several areas before we can see much progress. Those areas include the following:
Any form of sexual brokenness will have accompanying trauma. In fact, some form of trauma is almost always what creates sexual brokenness in the first place. That trauma does not have to be sexual, but it affects our sexuality. We need help addressing our trauma as part of our healing.
It is also true that in the beginning of our healing we need help examining our behaviors to look for ways we react to things that are not in our best interest. This is true of all forms of sexual brokenness. Part of coming out of brokenness is learning to react in more healthy ways to our world around us and the people in it.
A later stage of healing includes examining our beliefs and testing them against the truth. We may come to believe that others are not safe and cannot be trusted. Or we view ourselves as unworthy, unwanted, and of no value. Some of us decide God himself is not really good.
Such beliefs are based in past experiences and are hard to let go of, even if we intellectually understand they are false. Yet, this is part of our healing process.
WE (THINK WE) ARE DONE
This is where some of us stop. This is the point that we typically begin to feel better. We start to feel free from compulsive behaviors, deep emotional wounds, or both. Life is no longer so dark. We feel hope in a way we may have never felt before.
This is when many of us believe we are healed. We assume our healing process is finished and we can let go and relax. Within a few months or maybe a year, however, our sexual behaviors or deep wounds usually come racing back and overwhelm us once again.
THE MISSING CONNECTION
It is true that we need to address trauma, behaviors, and beliefs. But none of those things are what true healing is about. Those are just the precursors to lasting healing. Addressing trauma, modifying behaviors, and reframing our beliefs make it possible for us to do what healing requires: connect at a much deeper level with God and others.
We were created in God’s image for connection. God is communal in nature, illustrated by the unified Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not a superficial connection, but a deeply vulnerable and utterly transparent interdependence. God created us in the same way.
We were designed to need vulnerable, honest, and transparent connection to thrive. When we do not have this kind of connection with God and others, we become broken.
The mistake some of us make is to withdraw from regular, honest connections once we reach a satisfactory point in our healing. We fail to recognize that the reason we found any healing at all was because of the honest and transparent connections we had to make use of in our healing process. Our recovery was as much about those regular connections as it was about trauma, behavior, and beliefs.
At the writing of this blog I have been meeting weekly with other men to be honest about my feelings, behaviors, and beliefs for 25 years. These regular meetings, perhaps more than anything else, are what keep my healing in place.
I am not suggesting that healing is something so fragile that we must keep bolstering it up to prevent it from falling apart. I am saying that healing IS connection. To be healed is to be connected with others in regular, open conversation. To be healed is to do life together with others who are safe. To isolate is to move away from healing and back toward brokenness.
HEALTH & FITNESS
We know we should eat well to stay healthy. We know we need a certain amount of exercise not to fall into frailty. We know that having outlets for creativity keeps us in better mental shape. Our connection with others is no different.
Eating is required to survive physically but eating better food will also make us healthier. In the same way, having connection with others is required for basic mental health but the quality of those connections determines the extent of our wholeness. Shallow connections help us survive but do not help us thrive. Only deep, honest connections can keep moving us in the direction of wholeness instead of brokenness.
For those of us who have been sexually abused, we need safe people we talk with regularly so we can bring up past wounds any time they attempt to resurface.
For those who struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors, we need regular connection with others who know our story and will support us as we work through any triggers that come up.
For those who have been betrayed, we need regular connection with others who know our story who can be an ally when we are occasionally reminded of past traumas.
For children and adolescents who are still trying to make sense of their sexuality and temptation, they need adults to regularly talk through what they are feeling and remind them they are not alone.
Allies like this are not just for the time we are in active recovery or healing. Allies are supposed to be forever. Allies are supposed to talk often. Allies should be available at all times to support each other when needed.
We sometimes forget that God commanded all of us to do these things on a regular basis. This is something every follower of Jesus is supposed to be doing, all the time.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.
—James 5;16 (NASB)
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2 (NASB)
The opposite of sexual brokenness is not sobriety or the absence of emotional pain. The opposite of sexual brokenness is regular connection with God and a group of allies as we journey through our life on earth.
by Jonathan Daugherty
President and Founder of Be Broken
“Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.”
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake:
"What are the benefits of togetherness?"
In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a lot in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage in the process of doing life together with others.
The following are five benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationships that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
I remember when my recovery began. My wife had left because of my infidelity. I was alone. Lonely. I could no longer ignore or deny my sin and brokenness. So, I went to see a counselor.
Within just a few sessions with the counselor, he suggested that I plug into a support group. I was reluctant at first (to be honest, I was terrified!). But I eventually decided to go to the group. I’m glad I did.
My very first time at the group I experienced the comfort of other men who understood me and my broken life. They listened to my story. They didn’t reject or ridicule me. They embraced me; metaphorically and literally! I felt I had come home.
Together we experience comfort for the pain and struggles of life.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, and a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life.
Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone and isolated, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
After I had been attending the group for awhile, I noticed something about this idea of protection in community. No one belittled another man’s story and no one ever shared another man’s story outside the group. This wasn’t even a verbalized “rule,” this was just how men in the group protected each other.
I believe this desire to protect other group members is rooted in respect for courage. It isn’t easy to confess secret sins. Telling others of the awful selfish behaviors you have engaged in takes a great deal of courage. But when that courage is displayed, respect is granted.
We all need a group of friends, of confidants, who “have our back” in the trenches of life. We need those who protect our dignity, and we need those whose dignity we can protect. The bond of such friendships becomes unbreakable.
Together we stand up and protect each other.
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even that good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to heal and grow.
Within a few weeks of joining my support group, one of the men shared a truism from the AA community: “It’s your best thinking that got you here.” At first, I was shocked and a little bit offended. What a hard statement! But it was also a true statement.
I was confronted with the reality that my “wisdom” in addiction was actually foolishness. My reasoning, my false beliefs, my choices landed me squarely in the prison of compulsive behaviors that I could not control or resist. My best thinking got me here.
This is when I began to discover the treasure of wisdom that exists in a group of people pursuing freedom, truth, and grace. Group became a place for questions to be asked and wrestled with. It was safe to say “I don’t know” and to let go of “always being right” thinking.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20
Together we learn and grow in wisdom and humility.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
One major point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) Togetherness is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
After several months in my group I noticed a change in me when it came to sharing my story outside the group. I was more open and honest with friends or coworkers, even people in my church. As I was receiving help from the group and seeing changes manifest in my thoughts and behaviors, I felt more compelled and confident to share this with others -- even inviting other men to join me in the group!
About one year after beginning my recovery I started a group for men in my church. That was over 20 years ago and hundreds of men have come through that group on their own journey of recovery and growth.
Together we multiply good for generations to come.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
For decades now my favorite day of the week is Tuesday. Why? Because this is the day that our weekly support group meets. I love this day because I love the men who show up. And when they experience love, they experience all that comes with it: hope, freedom, joy, peace, and so much more.
Together we love one another no matter what.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
After 18 years of full-time sexual integrity ministry, I was given a 7-week sabbatical by our board of directors. In my entire adult life I had never had that much continuous time away from work. It was a precious gift, and I am thankful.
But I know the question you are asking: Why would I care about your sabbatical?
In other words, Why should you even keep reading this article?
Because you and I are more alike than we are different. We have the same fundamental needs since we are fellow human beings made in God's image. And one of those basic needs is rest.
Keep reading if you want to gain some insights about rest that could help you achieve greater spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Yes, God's creation and design of rest really is that incredible -- and essential!
Before I share my personal sabbatical discoveries, let's get a working definition for rest. This definition is rooted in the biblical idea of Sabbath.
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. -Gen. 2:2-3
When God finished His creation work, He rested. In His case, this wasn't because He was tired or needed any sort of energy "replenishment." He rested in order to enjoy His work; to relish, or glory in it.
Part of Sabbath rest is pausing to enjoy and delight in doing good work.
God went on to establish a weekly rhythm of Sabbath rest for His people:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. -Ex. 20:8-11
God commands us to "remember the Sabbath day" and to "not do any work" on it. It is a holy day set apart for physical rest -- and spiritual reflection. To "remember" the Sabbath is to remember the God of the heavens and earth, and worship Him accordingly.
Part of Sabbath rest is being still and worshiping the God of creation.
Sabbath rest is a regularly dedicated time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name.
God created the Sabbath to be a regular part of life. At the very least, one day a week is to be set aside for Sabbath rest. But there can also be seasons of Sabbath rest, such as a sabbatical. God even instituted "rest" for the land every seven years (see Exodus 23:10-11).
The main question for you and me is do we take Sabbath rest as seriously as God does? And if not, what are the consequences?
Discoveries from My Sabbatical
The following are some discoveries I made on my sabbatical that I hope will help you pursue a better balance of Sabbath rest in your own life. At the end of the article I post some additional resources for better work-rest balance.
1. Rest is good and needs to be a regular part of the rhythms of life.
Following from the above definition of Sabbath rest, this first "discovery" may seem like an obvious no-brainer. Duh, of course rest is good and needs to be part of my life!
But slow down. Sometimes what appears so obvious is glaringly absent from our actual week-to-week lives.
Do you really believe that rest is good and necessary? Or do you treat it like a nice accessory, but not a true necessity? In other words, do you view rest as equally as important as work? Is it scheduled on your calendar like everything else you consider important? When you disobey God's command to rest, do you confess it as sin?
(Ok, I'll stop there. I sense my questions were getting increasingly painful -- and personal!)
Because Sabbath rest is connected to God's Sabbath rest in creation we need to see it as both good and necessary. The idea of Sabbath existed before sin entered the world. Therefore, it is holy, good, and part of God's original design for human beings.
2. Rest is harder than it seems.
I was so looking forward to my sabbatical. I envisioned deep relaxation of body, mind, and soul. Then I was struck by a surprising reality: rest doesn't come easily!
Remember the definition of Sabbath rest: a regularly dedicated time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name.
Intentionality, ceasing work, focus, celebration. These are not terms that indicate passivity. Ironically, real rest takes some real effort!
To illustrate how hard it can be to truly rest, do this exercise. Sit in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes, Slow your breathing. Be quiet. Now, attempt to stay still for ten minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, on a scale of 1 to 5, rate how peaceful you felt. (1 being totally at peace, 5 being very anxious/stressed)
Maybe you scored really well. I didn't. To sit still for 10 minutes may be easy to do physically, but mentally it's a real challenge. Things may be quiet on the outside (especially if the phone is turned off), but to "turn down the volume" internally takes some attention.
The primary challenges to rest that I encountered on my sabbatical were:
As challenging as rest can be, it is worth the discipline. Adjusting focus and setting better expectations about what true rest is can really do wonders for experiencing deeper peace.
I know it seems contradictory to say you must "work hard" at rest, but if you don't you will continue to believe the lie that Sabbath rest is achieved merely by inactivity. Sadly, this only reaps a harvest of restlessness and weariness.
3. We are designed for purpose; even rest can be meaningful and life-giving.
I have battled rest my whole life. I haven't valued it as highly as work, or "ministry." I have seen it as something that is only necessary to regain energy to get back to the "real" business of life: work.
But if God, the eternal self-sustaining Creator of all things, rested, this must mean that rest is good and meaningful. And if I am made in God's image, then engaging in rest is part of my duty and delight in reflecting Him.
What this looks like practically for me is reframing my mindset around restful activities.
Rest is woven into our design and has a purpose beyond just getting reenergized for tomorrow's work.
4. God's creation is a testament to Sabbath rest
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
I love getting into nature, especially the mountains. There is something so majestic and awe-inspiring about these rocky crags that reach for the heavens. I feel wonder and amazement when gazing at the earth from a perch at 10,000 feet.
But I find there is more to be amazed at than just the beauty of God's creation. I find woven into nature millions of testimonies for Sabbath rest.
Observing nature can provide a simple (but profound) education in our need for Sabbath rest. After all, nature is far more obedient to God's commands than we are!
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
5. Sabbath rest is primarily communal
I am an introvert. I prefer solitude over groups of people. This isn't a bad thing, but if I'm not careful I can use this personality tendency as an excuse to isolate from community. But true Sabbath rest is communal.
Even when God rested from His creation work, He observed it and celebrated it communally. First, in Himself; He is one God consisting of a triune community: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But secondly, He rested in the presence of human beings (they were created on the 6th Day and God rested on the 7th Day).
I certainly believe there is a place for solitude in Sabbath rest (even Jesus would withdraw to "lonely places" to pray; but one could argue even this was communal since the Son was praying to the Father). But a huge part of what our souls need in Sabbath rest cannot be experienced by ourselves.
There are 3 main communal "activities" of Sabbath: Sacrifice, Fellowship, and Worship.
6. Life can only be enjoyed in the present
For some, the normal routines of life can become monotonous and predictable. Every day is just work, eat, sleep, repeat. The calendar app keeps rushing us from one activity to the next. Time races by. All that matters is what's next.
For others, although time keeps ticking, life has stopped. Nothing seems to matter. Food has lost its taste. Work is nothing more than punching a time card. Sleep is illusive. All of life is stuck in the past.
But neither dreams of the future nor memories of the past are happening now. And now is life. Life is only experienced in this moment.
My sabbatical reminded me to be careful of clinging to the unchangeable past or racing toward the unpredictable future. Instead, life is about being present in the now.
Interestingly, I discovered that "being present" is a far more restful way to live. Pining (or brooding) over the past is stressful and exhausting. Constantly imagining (or fantasizing) about the future, while fun and exciting, carries me away from opportunities that might be right in front of me now.
This doesn't mean we never examine our past or plan for our future. But we must learn to do so without sacrificing the only time that life is happening: now.
A Few More Ideas
Here are just a few more ideas from my sabbatical that might be useful as you think about your own times of rest:
I hope this brief reflection on my sabbatical has helped you think through your own need for Sabbath rest, and provided you with a few ideas so you might engage more faithfully in "time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name."
What is God inviting you to do differently in order to engage more Sabbath rest? What will you do right now to take steps in that direction?
May God bless you as you rest in Him...
Additional Resources to Help You Rest Well:
An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling
Reset by David Murray (for pastors/ministry leaders)
Refresh by Shona & David Murray (for women)
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg
by Anne Kerr
Family Care Specialist
Did porn find your child? I’m so sorry. Discovering that your child has been exposed to porn can feel very shameful and isolating for both parent and child. But there is hope.
A couple reached out to me about their 12-year-old son’s discovering and continuing to watch porn on his school-provided computer. (They were assured it had a filter.) In a matter of days he’d managed to watch some terrible things. His parents were desperate, heartbroken, and unsure of how to handle the new reality. We cried, talked, and prayed. I shared a few thoughts with them, things perhaps you could use now or in the future, things that might be helpful for someone you love.
(Please know that my advice below was based on their son’s use of porn, but these truths apply in cases of girls using porn also.)
How do you become your child’s ally?
Connect with him or her as one sexual being to another. Empathize. You were once a young girl or boy beginning to become more aware of your sexuality. Relate to what your child may be feeling or experiencing today. Then, lead your child through ongoing conversations and good resources grounded in biblical truth. And finally, protect your kids to the best of your ability while trusting in the sovereignty of God.
Romans 8:28 is comforting to all of us who know the struggle of failing in the area of sexuality. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He can and will redeem your child’s wanderings. He can draw you closer as a family. He delights in displaying His strength through our weaknesses.
After several weeks, I circled back with the mom who called me about her son. She was so encouraged. She said initially she wanted to run to “the law.” Her son had sinned. He’d lied. He’d visited sites that he knew were off-limits. He’d hidden things from them. But Jesus reminded her that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8) – hers, her son’s, her husband’s. And that God’s love could bind their hearts and make their family stronger. They were intentionally moving in that direction and bringing their other children into ongoing conversations. Her husband was organizing a small group with two other fathers and their sons to have a place to be more real, a place where their sons would know they were not alone, a place where they could encourage one another and pray for each other.
God truly is redeeming their son’s story by weaving it into His bigger story – His story of grace for our sin, strength for our weakness, and His ability to take the broken things and use them for our good and His glory. I pray you’re living this kind of story too.
Would you like some guidance along your journey? Here are some resources and links you might find helpful:
Email: AnneKerr @ Bebroken.com
Personal Consultation with Anne Kerr
Personal Consultation with John Fort
Family Care Resource Page
by John Fort
Director of Training
When it is discovered that one member of our family struggles with sexual brokenness it is tempting to think of recovery as something only for them. However, when one member of our family struggles with sexual brokenness all of us are affected. Every member of the family, children included, will need to work through how they are affected.
We also need to recognize that every member of our family carry wounds of sexual brokenness that came from outside our family. This includes our children. The hyper sexual world we live in impacts all of us in negative ways.
Sexual brokenness is something we work through best with others, not alone. We are created as communal beings. God designed us to journey through healing together, not alone. The journey from brokenness to wholeness in Christ is something the entire family should take together.
Brokenness & Family Relationships
The journey to healing typically begins when one family member’s sexual brokenness is confessed, discovered, or reaches a point that the family can no longer ignore it. That family member could be a mother, father, adult child, or even a child.
The sexual brokenness comes in many forms: things done to us—like past sexual abuse, or things we do ourselves—such as problematic sexual behavior. Sexual brokenness is rarely entirely the fault of the person suffering from it. There is usually a long history of factors outside their control that contributed to their brokenness.
Sexual brokenness is very personal. It hurts in the deepest places of our heart. Sexual brokenness, no matter what the source, causes us to interact with our family in negative, often defensive, ways. Like a wounded tiger, a sexually broken person’s default mode is to react defensively. For this reason, sexual brokenness will negatively affect all surrounding relationships.
Brokenness & the Hot Seat
When a family member’s sexual brokenness comes into the light it can be extremely shaming and uncomfortable for them. That family member suddenly moves into the spotlight of attention within the family, and not in a good way. We should recognize how painful that will be for our family member.
Seeing sexual brokenness in someone we love will also remind us of our own sexual brokenness. Memories of friends showing us pornography as children come flooding back. Uncomfortable feelings resurface as we recall friends telling us graphic sexual jokes. The gut-punch sensation from others who sexually objectified us in the past may return. The shame from past sexual choices can suddenly loom large.
Rather than be reminded of past sexual pain family members can easily resort to redirecting that pain toward the family member who is in the hot seat. We become easily angered by them. We give them the silent treatment. We spend less time with them.
It is true that the sexual brokenness of a family member hurts the rest of us. It is right that we discuss this openly. However, it is unhelpful for every member of the family to not realize how their own past sexual brokenness—the parts not caused by the family member in the hot seat—is being triggered.
When our own sexual brokenness reappears it means it is time for us to start our own healing journey. Repressing sexual brokenness only makes it fester and rot inside. Such hidden brokenness will come out in really ugly ways if we ignore it.
Choosing to Journey Together
May I suggest that rather than focus only on the brokenness of the family member on the hot seat that our families are better off linking arms and taking this healing journey together. What if we all sat down, once the smoke of the initial bomb has cleared, and had a calm but honest discussion of our own histories with sexual brokenness.
I realize that in the case of sexual betrayal the family may need some time, even several months, before this can happen. None-the-less, sexual betrayal is not something that is healthy to ignore. That would be stuffing our feelings of betrayal rather than dealing with them.
We need to remember that children are also affected by the sexual betrayal of a parent, not just the other spouse. All of this will need to be discussed for family healing to happen. At some point, however, even in the case of sexual betrayal, the rest of the family will be better off when they can face their own sexual past as well.
There are a lot of other forms of sexual brokenness besides betrayal. All of them cause us to interact poorly with our family. All of them need attention to heal. Perhaps a family member finally has the courage to bring up sexual abuse they experienced as a child. This very much falls within what we are talking about.
The Brokenness that Comes to Mind
When we feel it is safe the family can begin to share the kinds of sexual brokenness they have experienced. The nude images we saw in National Geographic as a child leaving us confused as to why we wanted to see them again. The creepy person who kept commenting on our body and how that made us feel. Looking in the mirror after a shower and feeling awkward with our body or not liking what we saw. How uncomfortable we felt hearing sexual jokes. Sexual experimentation as a child that left us with feelings we didn’t know what to do with. Someone showing us pornography and feeling ashamed at how much we wanted to see it again. Feeling excited as an adolescent when seeing an attractive person and not knowing if that feeling was good or a sin. Wondering if we were weird for the sexual questions we wondered silently about.
When we dare as a family to be honest about the kinds of things that have affected our sexuality we are beginning to join arms on the journey to wholeness. And, yes, this includes the kids. Think back to how early you experienced some of the things listed above, then realize that kids today typically experience these events a couple of years sooner. Kids need to be able to talk about at least some of these things with the rest of the family.
The Family Journey
I realize there are cases where a family member needs to separate for a time or even permanently for the safety of others. Even these families, however, eventually need to work on their own brokenness, including the brokenness caused by the member who had to leave.
When the family stays united, the rest of the family has a support role to play by encouraging the member whose brokenness first came to light. We affirm their efforts at seeking outside help. We can help their hot seat feel a little less warm as we admit our own past sexual brokenness.
As each family member faces the brokenness that starts coming to mind, they may need outside help as well. This could be in the form of a mentor or professional, but it could also be a book or course the family takes together. Either way, this is a journey the family can take together. Families who dare to do this will find deeper relationships waiting on the other side.
by Anne Kerr
Family Care Specialist
At a sleepover during my fifth-grade year, everything changed for me. Of all the things we did, I have only one clear memory of that night: the 8”x10” glossy porn image that my friend stealthily pulled from a manila envelope hidden on top of the refrigerator. It left an impression on my brain and a wound in my heart, and decades later I can still feel its impact.
That photo was the first of many porn images I saw over the next several years. Magazines my brothers left in an upstairs bathroom and others in a home where I babysat tempted me, and I would often give in. I knew very little about human anatomy or sex, and the magazines were my incredibly destructive teachers which left me with more questions than answers. Feeling very ashamed and unsure about many things related to sexuality, I stumbled my way into adulthood with more than my share of missteps.
Fast-forward to 2021, and kids have not changed one bit. They still enjoy sleepovers. They are still naive and curious. And they still need to learn about things related to bodies and sex. But the ways in which most of them learn about sexual topics have changed dramatically. And the content they can easily access is infinitely more destructive than the Playboy magazines of the 70s.
Your children need to learn about bodies, sex, sexuality, relationships, and a host of other related topics. Will they learn about them from you and from God’s perspective? Or will they, like most of us, be greatly influenced by the world’s messaging?
The reality is that most of today’s kids (at increasingly younger ages) are learning about sexuality from things like…
Real Stories from Families
Often I hear stories of how kids were exposed to sexual themes, many explicit and damaging:
“My daughter’s friend asked if she wanted to see some boobs which led to a quick Google Images search.”
“My eight-year-old found a documentary on porn on our family’s streaming service. Somehow it got through the filters we’d set up.”
“My child had a friend who set up a proxy server on our computer, and he would get up early in the morning to watch porn.”
“My child was abused on the school bus.”
“My son’s class had to read the book ‘I am Jazz’ (a book about transgenderism) to kids a couple of grades below them.”
“A YouTube video for kids suddenly showed inappropriate content.”
“Sports Illustrated website and their swimsuit issue.”
“My homeschooled daughter wanted to know what sex was like, discovered porn, and began viewing it.”
“My teen daughter has been inviting her boyfriend over after we’ve all gone to bed.”
“My 14-year-old son heard that a female classmate would send a nude photo if he asked. So he did, and she sent one.”
“In my son’s Trigonometry class, two kids performed a public sex act when the teacher left the room.”
“A commercial with two men holding hands.”
“In first grade my child is learning about The Gender Unicorn.” (Feel free to Google it.)
“A middle-schooler came into my counseling office asking if she had to have sex. She’d read the Fifty Shades of Grey books and was worried about sex being painful.”
“My daughter entered public school for the first time after being homeschooled, and several kids asked her how she identified.”
“As part of an anti-bullying effort, my 11-year-old was required to complete a survey that used terms like pansexual, non-binary, and cis gender. He was embarrassed to tell me that he didn’t understand many of the terms used.”
Are you feeling a little overwhelmed, perhaps nauseous? I’m so sorry to have to bear this news, but you need to understand how different today’s world is and how very sexualized it has become. Your kids will have their own experiences just as you and I did. They will search for answers to their questions, they will be intrigued with sexual things, and at times they will experience sexual feelings as they encounter sexual things. They are human, and humans are sexual beings. They’re also your precious children, and I know you want to help guide them as well as protect them.
Many parents feel that homeschool or private school is the answer. But the enemy of our souls understands the significance of sexuality and will work in a multitude of ways to ensnare all of God’s children, even yours. All children today are quite vulnerable to his attacks.
Encouragement to Parents
While you cannot totally wrap your child in a protective cocoon and somehow miss all the sexual messaging in today’s hyper-sexualized world, you can become more aware and create an environment where your kids feel safe to talk with you about it. And you can share information about bodies, sex, sexuality, porn, culture, and relationships through short, honest conversations. You can become your child’s go-to for this information by beginning early and sharing consistently, gently, and proactively. With God’s help you can undo much of the shame your child may internalize related to sexuality. To a great extent you can counteract much of the sexual misinformation and counterfeits your kids will encounter.
Many parents today dismiss the onslaught of sexual messaging and consider it harmless. Others simply aren’t aware of its destructiveness and the easy access to sexual content online. Many minimize the challenges saying this is just the way kids learn about sex in 2021.
I believe you want more for your kids. Stay tuned.
*Today’s porn is very destructive, highly addictive, and easily accessible. Dr. Gail Dines’ organization, Culture Reframed, explains the current porn crisis well here: https://www.culturereframed.org/the-porn-crisis/.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
In recent years a lot has been written about the negative fallout of the "purity movement" of the 1990's and early 2000's. And rightfully so. Many were wounded as a result of narrow, incomplete teaching on God's design for sex.
Essentially, "purity culture" taught that sex is for marriage, virginity is sacred (seemingly above all else), and if you save yourself for marriage you will be blessed with happiness and great, godly sexual bliss. This led many young people to go "underground" with their sexual struggles and questions due to the shame created by the purity movement (whether intentional or unintentional).
But does the failure of a particular movement mean that certain terms must be forever relegated as "dangerous" or unhelpful?
I would like to propose that the term 'sexual purity' is good and useful when properly understood. I will attempt to share what we at Be Broken mean when we use this term, and hopefully this will lead you to a fuller understanding of God's good and beautiful design for sex and purity.
Only God is Pure
When we think of purity as meaning totally unstained or absolute perfection, then there can only be one being to whom this definition fits: God. He alone is perfect, absolutely holy.
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)
This is important to understand so that none of us thinks we can produce within ourselves something that belongs to God alone. God is 100% holy and perfect, we are not.
But this might seem confusing when God's Word also says, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:14-16, referencing passages from Leviticus; 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7, and others)
Is God commanding us to do something that is impossible? If only God is holy (pure), how can he command us to be holy?
This is where it is important to remember that we are "made in God's image." (Gen. 1:26-27) Another way to state this is that we are "made in God's reflection." We do not contain the essence of God in our being (we don't possess omniscience, for example), but by God's grace we do possess the capacity to reflect Him.
In this way, God's call on our lives to "be holy" is to accurately and faithfully reflect His image and character in the world around us.
Therefore, sexual purity would mean we accurately and faithfully reflect God's design and desires regarding sex and sexuality.
This is where we need to understand what God's design and desires regarding sex and sexuality actually are.
Sex is Good
In the beginning, God created Adam from the dust of the ground and then fashioned his wife, Eve, out of Adam's body. After they were created, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31)
Human beings made in God's image, male and female, were declared "very good" by God. This included their sexuality. In fact, Adam spoke of this intimate union when he first saw Eve. He said:
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen. 2:23-24)
Adam immediately recognized the "fittedness" of Eve to himself; bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She "completed" him in a way that no other creature God created could. This "one flesh" union was good and sanctioned by God in the covenant bond of marriage ("hold fast to his wife").
But God's design for sex is more than just a way for a husband and wife to connect or procreate. God's design for sex is to give us a tangible picture of the kind of relationship He desires with us: covenantal, intimate, life-multiplying.
The goodness of sex points to the Author of good: God. He is the ultimate Lover, the faithful Spouse, our persistent Pursuer.
When we see God's design for sex through His eyes we begin to understand that His call to purity (holiness) is not merely about a list of do's and do not's, but rather an invitation to know Him and love Him in the same way a husband and wife know and love each other.
To pursue sexual purity is to guard the metaphor of sex God has given us by not distorting or dismantling it through pornography, adultery, fornication, gay marriage, polygamy, and the like.
But we also guard the metaphor by not idolizing it; the picture is meant to point us to its Painter. Sex, and even marriage, cannot ultimately provide what your soul can only experience with God.
Sex is good. God made it so. Its design is to draw us closer to our Maker, the only One who can satisfy our deepest longings.
Purity is a Journey, Not a Destination
Nothing in nature is pure. At least not in the sense that we often try to apply (or misapply) this word to sex, as in "sexual purity."
Everything in nature contains "pollution" or imperfections of some kind. Therefore, purity is not a natural state. For anything to be pure it must be purified. Purification is a process of removing the pollutants and imperfections.
For example, gold is not found "pure" in nature. There are all sorts of imperfections attached to it; dirt, other metals, rock, etc. While much of this can simply be chipped away from the gold, the impurities that are woven into the gold itself cannot be removed without melting the gold. This requires high temperatures (roughly 2000 degrees Fahrenheit!) in order to separate the pure gold from the imperfections. This takes time, patience, and precision.
This is what the process of pursuing sexual purity looks like. Human beings are not naturally pure. We have many "pollutants" and imperfections in us (and around us). Pornography, lust, abuse, and more weaves into our lives, our minds and hearts. And these impurities are not eliminated in a single moment in time. We require regular "purifying" throughout a lifetime.
Another way to think of sexual purity as a process is to consider it like a bath. If you bathed yesterday, would you consider yourself permanently clean? I hope not! In a matter of days (or maybe even shorter!) it would be evident that one bath is not adequate. Bathing needs to be a regular part of your life in order for your body to be clean (or "pure").
Sexual purity is a journey. Some parts of the journey might require purification by a refining fire to remove deeply embedded pollutants. Most of the journey will require purification through regular "bathing" to remove the normal, natural imperfections that make their way into our lives daily.
Sexual purity is not a static, permanent state. It is a daily pursuit of reflecting the holy image of God by examining the mirror of our lives and removing whatever is blocking a clear reflection of Him.
The Goal is Mature Faith, Not Sexual Abstinence
Finally, sexual purity is more about maturing in faith than it is about sexual abstinence. While there are boundaries for sexual behavior, the primary focus is on Jesus.
In our ministry, most of the people who reach out to us for help are looking for answers to very specific problems.
"Help, I'm addicted to porn. How can I stop?"
"I just found out my husband has cheated on me. What do I do?"
"My 14-year-old son is sexting with his friends. How do I lock down his phone?"
Hundreds of such requests come before us every year. These are real people with real problems and real pain. But if we simply give them quick, pat answers that only address the urgent question without guiding them to the deeper needs, we aren't actually helping them with their problem or their understanding of sexual purity.
You see, no matter what the presenting sexual problem may be, the solution is always ultimately found in Jesus. (I know this sounds like the classic "Sunday school" answer, but it is still true.) Remember, God is holy, perfect, and he revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In Him, the fullness of diety dwells. (Col. 2:9)
Internet filters, accountability software, support groups, counseling, and all other kinds of tools are helpful for curbing behaviors. But no "tool" produces sexual purity in the heart. Only Jesus can transform a person on that level.
Ultimately, sexual purity is about faith. Will you trust God with your whole heart, your whole life, including your sexuality? Pursuing Him in faith is the most "purifying" thing you can do. His love and truth will cleanse you in ways you might have thought impossible.
Sexual purity is not a term that we need to fear or categorically dismiss due to its historical mishandling. We just need to understand it better from a biblical framework.
When we use the term "sexual purity" we mean:
May God grant you favor and peace as you pursue a life of sexual purity.
by Anne Kerr
Family Care Specialist
Sexuality is one of the most common aspects of being human, yet one of the most difficult to talk about. Why is that? Why are we so reticent to share about sexual wounds or sin with a spouse, a close friend, or a child? I believe it is because the enemy of our souls knows the power of authenticity to heal and unify us.
Often we hide our stories out of fear of losing the one we have hurt. Or we haven’t found that true freedom that allows us to be fully known and consequently fully loved.
In his book Unwanted: How Our Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, Jay Stringer speaks compassionately of how our stories of sexual brokenness often are the key to moving toward sexual health and healing.
In my own life and in the lives of many others, conversations about sexual wounds and wanderings have been powerful to set us free from the bondage of sin and shame. And in a parent-child relationship, such stories (when shared appropriately) can be powerful to build bonds of trust for
Today’s kids need our stories of struggle, failure, and redemption. They need to know they are not facing the challenges of today’s culture alone.
Often parents share their concerns related to sharing honestly with their kids….
I had a friend advise me not to share of my sexual wounds and wanderings with my children as they were growing up. She said they might look at me and think that because I turned out okay, they would believe they could sin and turn out okay also. I wish I’d followed my gut and been more authentic rather than remaining silent and maintaining the appearance of propriety.
I believe both pride and fear kept me from being authentic and real. And I believe I lost an opportunity to gain my children’s trust for very tender and timely conversations related to sexuality.
My friend’s advice was well-intentioned, but it was based in fear, not authenticity and gospel grace. It assumed that conveying perfection to my kids would lead them toward perfection. I don’t think it works that way. For one thing, perfection should not be the goal. Christ was the only perfect one. But learning to live and love as Christ does is truly life-altering, and Christ was undeniably authentic.
I help parents become allies to their kids in a sexualized culture. An ally is someone a child turns to rather than hides from as he or she becomes more aware of sexuality or experiences things related to it.
Most of us hid in those moments, for example, seeing porn for the first time, experiencing sexual abuse, or discovering the pleasure of self-touch.
Without a safe person to help us process our pain, help us with a sin struggle, or provide protection, we internalized fear or shame related to sexuality. Fear and shame foster more hiding and make conversations even more difficult.
Being an ally means working through the obstacle of fear that often leads to hiding.
The way of an ally happens to be Jesus’ way also. It’s sharing honestly and humbly without fear or shame. It’s being wise to share generally without traumatizing or painting too vivid of a picture for a child. It’s trusting God with outcomes. It’s allowing God to use our brokenness in the lives of our
children. It’s being real. Being human. And being willing to grow and move toward healing for our own shame or freedom from our sin patterns.
Jesus models this for us.
Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you [a yoke is made for two] and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus invites us to come to Him just as we are and to share our burdens with Him so we can live free. Jesus will equip us to welcome the people in our lives who need to share their burdens.
If you’re in the parenting years, invite your little ones to come to you and not hide in their sin or sorrow or shame. Create that open door. Encourage them to lay their burdens down and to share their yoke－the yoke of shame, emotional turmoil, sin, regret, fear, uncertainty, or whatever－with you and with Jesus. A burden shared is half a burden. This will look different at every age.
Teach and model what it looks like to fail, to repent, to make restitution for our mistakes, and to live in the boundless and free grace of forgiveness and unconditional love.
Your children will be much more likely to turn to you when they make mistakes if you've modeled what this looks like and if they aren't afraid of you or your reaction.
Sexuality is so personal. It's easy to see how we learn to hide. We communicate privacy because that’s an important concept for little ones to learn. A level of modesty that isn’t shaming is good.
But somehow, we as Christians seem to have gotten the messaging all mixed up. We have traded the goodness of bodies and sexuality for the darkness of sin, shame, and hiding. We must reclaim bodies and sexuality for God, for His purposes, within His good design as written in His word. And we don’t need to be ashamed of anything about sexuality because God isn’t.
Find a close friend to begin to share your stories with. Cry over innocence lost, or regret, or someone’s sin against you, or poor choices made. Let that younger version of yourself express what he or she could not express then. Be compassionate toward your younger self. Perhaps find a counselor to share with, or share with your spouse.
A therapist friend once told me that she counsels many people individually but she begins to see real growth in group therapy. When I asked why, she said that there is something powerful that happens when we begin to share our deepest shame with others and realize that we are still lovable.
For parents wanting to understand better the power of their stories, I highly recommend John Fort’s book Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex. John helps parents learn the value of their stories to create bonds of trust with their children, and he shows them how to do this well.
God’s grace is for the moment, and His grace covers all our sin and shame. I pray God will lead you to at least one safe person to begin sharing your stories with. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Vulnerability is often the first step toward exponential spiritual and relational growth.
You will probably never have to share your story on a stage as I often do, but if you’re a mom or dad you have an incredible audience in front of you right now.
No matter what stage you’re in, your friends need your stories. We are so much better together, and God created us to live authentically in relationship with each other. Become that ally that someone in your life needs. Let Jesus show you how.
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