As a Mom, Why You Don’t Have to Have all the Answers

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As a blogger, I love to dive deep into the why’s of human nature: Why do I act in a certain way in a scenario? Why do I feel this particular emotion in a situation? I read many articles from psychology and health sites to help inform me when I write articles. And yet, there are times when my research has not been able to provide me the answers I needed at crucial moments in my life, particularly in motherhood. At times, I have no idea why I act the way I do or what to do in a particular situation with my kids.

Some time ago, I was plagued by a nagging question that I couldn’t answer: Why do I get so angry with my oldest daughter? She is such an easy-going, smart kid. She is always eager to please and a great helper around the house. When I correct her, she immediately attempts to remedy what I point out. And she is super responsible with her own homework and schoolwork. And yet, I often fuss at her over miniscule things like leaving her wet towels on the floor or not putting the vacuum cleaner away. I feel irritation when she comes downstairs in a mismatched outfit or says a comment that might raise an eyebrow. Then I overreact, feel bad, and do it all over again.

God Answers My Question

After her younger brother was born, my daughter went through a phase where she asked me repeatedly if I loved her as much as her brother. I couldn’t understand why she would even ask me this question until I watched a video of myself around her and her then infant brother. In the video, I sat on the floor holding my son. My daughter, a 3-year-old at the time, hopped around me trying to get my attention. But each time I looked at her, I had a scowl on my face. The way I looked at my son and the way I looked at her was different and evident to me even in the video.

I know I love her, so why the difference in how I treat them? I prayed about the situation and discussed it with friends at my mom group. Some time went by and I didn’t get an answer to my question. And then, as I was reading an article on worth, God’s answer came to me and hit me like a tidal wave: You are deeply afraid your daughter will be unwanted.

Say what? My fear for her was causing me to get angry? I sat in that moment, reeling from the truth of that statement. I read once that anger is a secondary emotion. Often, anger can mask another emotion such as fear. As clinical psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, explains, we may get angry when another person cuts us off in traffic, but that anger is actually masking an underlying fear we have that we will be hurt in a car accident.

As only God could, He revealed with unnerving accuracy what my irritability was concealing all along. I feared my daughter wouldn’t grow up knowing how much she was worth or feel like she was wanted. Expecting perfect behavior from her and becoming angry when her “performance” faltered was me attempting to mold her into someone who wouldn’t be rejected. But as I have done many times before, I was attempting to “help” and control a situation that I needed to put in God’s hands. I needed to trust God that He had designed her to be the way He wanted her to be and that there would be friends for her in His provision.

God Confides His Secrets to Us When We Walk With Him

Certainly, my daughter needs my guidance and correction, but the kind I was giving her was beyond what was needed. God giving me that nugget of information helped me understand my own emotions and make a change in becoming more patient with her. A verse that has become a life verse for me is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.”

The verse cautions us to lean on God rather than our own wisdom. However, this default to our flesh — this drift to fix and handle every situation according to our own wisdom, when it comes to our kids or otherwise, is a constant temptation. I can’t control all the circumstances of my daughter’s life so she won’t face rejection or receive challenges to her worth, although I have certainly tried. I can be a support to her, teach her the lessons I have learned, and guide her using biblical principles and God’s wisdom — but I can’t ensure by being a vigilant mom that she will avoid every heartbreak or only have only good things happen to her.

But I needed God’s wisdom to know how to improve our interactions. How awesome that God used an ordinary experience of reading an article to reveal the deep places of my heart to me. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” The King James words it like this: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

While many of us view God as distant and stern, the psalm tells us of a God who wants to be our friend. As the NIV puts it, He “confides” in those who walk with Him. Or, as the KJV says, His “secrets” are with those who fear Him. Both words are translated from a word in Hebrew that means “couch.” If you can believe it, God converses with us much like a friend with another friend on a couch! Each revelation of His is like a specially wrapped gift He presents to us. And He counsels us so that we might know how to better know Him and ourselves — and adjust our behavior so that we can allow our paths to be aligned with His.

We Don’t Have to Know Everything as Moms

A few years ago when we moved, I discovered a surprise behind our new house. One day when I was out in the yard, I caught a glimpse of blue between the trees. As I peered to look closer, I noticed a lake — or in actuality, a small pond. Though such a discovery might not be a big deal to someone else, I grew up on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. One of the hardest things for me as a young wife in moving to Georgia was leaving behind the soothing blue of water that I saw daily in my hometown. This little pond was like a hidden treasure!

I couldn’t help but think when I came upon it how the treasures God reveals to us in our walk with Him are like that sparkle of blue I saw behind my house. His secrets are those we don’t always expect to find but are those that delight us as they give us knowledge that make our way clear — and help us to make sense of the problems and dilemmas we have no answer for in motherhood and otherwise.

Often as moms we sometimes forget that we’re not alone. Though we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is not far off and is waiting to tell His secrets to those who will choose to trust Him in the journey. We don’t have to know all the answers as mothers; we just need to stay connected to Him as we move through our days. Though He won’t always answer a question we have or immediately respond, He will guide us in the way we should go when we make it our aim to fully know Him and rely on Him.

Related Resources:

As a parent, do you find it difficult to trust when it comes to your kids? Former blog member Jamie Wills shares a hilarious story about her daughter’s antics one day before church — and how what started as a really bad day turned into a really good one.

Sometimes, we struggle to help our kids with their own self-image because ours is so poor. The following resources offer help for boosting feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth: “Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection,” “Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself,” “Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself.”

*Updated May 15, 2018.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

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Rejection is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel as humans. Years ago, before there were limitations on the kind of studies you do, they tested babies and the importance of human contact. In the study, one group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but also held and nurtured. Another group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but not held or nurtured with human touch. As the study continued, the group of babies that had the benefit of human touch thrived, whereas the babies that were deprived of human contact died.

Clearly, you can see why these types of studies are not allowed any longer! But the results of the study show us how our Creator intended for us to be loved and be in community with other people. When we feel rejected or unwanted by others, such rejection can have a serious impact on our physical and emotional health — and these impacts reach beyond the infant years.

In fact, if you take a look at the details of many of the high school shooters who have turned against their own classmates, you see a common theme: rejection. These individuals sought retaliation against others who had laughed at them or belittled them. So great was the sting of others’ rejection, they sought revenge with gunfire. The bizarre and violent retaliatory tactics utilized by those who have been rejected or feel unwanted aren’t limited to the high school shooting category. If you choose to investigate other crimes, you will see that in many cases, horrific acts of murder or harm against another person started with a rejection of some kind.

Clearly, then, its important that we take a look at rejection and how to react when we are rejected — because otherwise, we can fall into a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can have negative impacts on our physical or emotional well-being.

Individuals in the Bible Who Suffered Rejection

There is no better place we can turn to than the Bible for vivid examples of individuals who experienced rejection. Leah was someone who wasn’t wanted by her husband. In fact, her husband, Jacob, was tricked into marrying her by Leah’s own father. Jacob actually desired her sister and had been promised her sister, Rachel. So, after the wedding night when Jacob discovered that he hadn’t been given Rachel, but rather Leah, he demanded the sister that he had worked for. He did get Rachel as his second wife, but he never loved both of his wives equally.

Leah spent much of her marriage trying to earn the affections of her disinterested husband. In fact, she didn’t have much leverage in the relationship, so she clung to the one thing that would get her some measure of attention: she bore children. She birthed son after son in an attempt to win her husband’s heart, saying things like, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32), and, “At last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But her husband just loved her sister, Rachel, despite Leah’s attempts to gain his attention. At last, we see a reprieve in Leah’s striving when she says after the birth of her fourth son, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). Here, she looks to God as her Source, rather than her husband. However, her rivalry with her sister didn’t end, and she did continue to have more children in an effort to “out-do” her sister.

Similarly, we see in the story of Zacchaeus a man who was rejected by his community. His rejection was due to the fact that he was a tax collector and cheated those he collected from, getting rich from the extra profits. However, although it doesn’t tell us this expressly in the story, maybe Zacchaeus’ rejection started long before he became a tax collector. Maybe Zacchaeus always felt like the odd man out because he was so short. Maybe he relished his power over others in his role as tax collector and liked being able to tax those who had rejected him in the past. Or maybe, as advocated in a study I read on rejection, each time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he was rejected — and with each rejection, he took money from the individuals who rejected him. Again, this is just speculation, but it is possible.

What both of these individuals show us is that rejection is painful, but people who are rejected aren’t without sin of their own. In the case of Leah, she got caught in a cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing, as each time she had a child she presented the child to her husband with hope that he would love her. She finally broke that cycle when she began looking to God for approval. Similarly, although we’re not expressly told this, Zacchaeus’ rejection by the community may have been that which contributed or even started his pattern of cheating others.

Getting Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

As I mentioned in my last post, in Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he talks about the idea that often in our rejection, we give the enemy access in our lives because in our anger over the rejection, we turn to ungodly reactions or fleshly coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. As the Bible tells us, we are not to anger in our sin and give a foothold [topos] to Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27). As Riches explains, when we allow our anger to fester over a rejection and don’t resolve it, we may allow that anger to cause us to react in wrong ways to our rejection. In doing so, we give territory to the enemy.

In our wrong responses to others, which might include lashing out in anger, gossiping, talking maliciously about the person, etc., we may open our lives to the enemy and then continue to give him space to operate by developing patterns of thinking and behavior that become strongholds in our lives. These strongholds serve as obstacles in our Christian walk and must be demolished in order for us to walk in freedom (2 Corinthians 10:4). Not only that, but our ungodly responses can help us get caught in a cycle of rejection. I am basing this term on what Riches calls an offense cycle, but basically what the cycle looks like is this:

  1. We experience a rejection or hurt.
  2. In our anger, we react in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions.
  3. By acting in wrong ways in our anger, we give topos to the enemy — a place of access for him to influence our thoughts and behavior.
  4. Our ungodly behavior — whether it be bitterness, anger, resentment, negative thoughts about ourselves, etc. — causes more rejection.
  5. When we are rejected again, we react again in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions, and the cycle continues.

For those of us caught in such a cycle, we may wonder why we are constantly rejected and wonder what we can do to stop being rejected. However, as Riches says, most of us won’t be able to see the role we are playing in the rejection, and we’ll simply blame others for the rejections and take on a victim mentality. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing to come to Him and allow Him to pierce through our defense mechanisms and open ourselves up to His help and healing, we can break out of the cycle of rejection that we are caught in. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever be rejected again, but it does mean that we aren’t inviting those rejections with our own behavior, and we’ll be able to handle rejection in a healthy way when it comes around again.

I’ll be discussing the particulars of how to break out of a rejection cycle in my next post, but to touch on it briefly, we can begin to break out of the cycle when we forgive those who have hurt us in our past and ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt. In addition, when new hurts and offenses come up, we refuse to retaliate or turn to fleshly coping mechanisms, but instead turn to God for healing and choose to forgive those who hurt us — and even bless and do good to our enemies. Luke 6:27 says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I’m not saying that there is never a time that we don’t confront someone or call someone out on their behavior. We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit for that, but we do so in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Blessing others and seeking not to retaliate against our enemies will help us avoid falling into a cycle of rejection. And, if we have already been caught in a cycle of rejection, we can find an out by choosing to take part in the steps of forgiveness I outlined above.

Living Lives Free of Offense

God wants us to live lives that are free (John 10:10). He does not want us to succumb to heavy chains of unforgiveness. The Bible tells us that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can resist his schemes by refusing to get trapped in a cycle of rejection and instead taking the biblical response to offense. Although harder initially, this refusal to retaliate against our enemies and insistence on blessing and forgiving them keeps our mind and bodies at peace, and out of torment and distress.

Related Resources:

Not only can we get caught in an unhealthy rejection cycle when rejected, we might also attempt to strive for others’ approval in an unhealthy way. Check out the following resources on giving over our relationships and stresses about our performance at work to God: “Learning to Depend on God” and “Spiritual Rest: Letting go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships.”

Want to hear more from co-host Suzy Lolley from the Beulah Girl Podcast? Check out her blog and Facebook page to read her work and connect with her.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Embracing Your Child’s Differences

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Earlier this year, my older daughter was working on a submission for a PTA Reflections Contest at her school. Each year, the PTA holds a contest for different grade levels and encourages students to submit artwork, photography, and writing. My daughter, a budding artist at age 9, gets excited each year about the new piece she will submit.

This year, she came up with a cat reaching for balloons concept to meet the requirements of the “Aim Upward” theme. And, just as happened last year, we got into a tussle about her submission.

“Oh sweetie,” I said coming up behind her as she sketched out her cat and balloons, “make the cat bigger.”

I watched her face crumple as she erased and changed her picture to incorporate my suggestion. I left and came back to check on her progress. I could see that she wasn’t happy by the frown on her face.

“I just don’t like the cat that big,” she complained, putting her pencil down in frustration.

I could see where this was going. I leaned in and said, “Draw it like you want then. It’s your project.”

She happily got to work on a fresh sheet of paper and began filling her paper with not only a miniscule cat but miniscule balloons. Each night before bed, she colored a few more balloons, and I caught her humming happily in the midst of her work.

Though I had serious doubts about the winnability of her picture because of the too-small (in my estimation) proportions of her cat and balloons, I chose to hold my tongue because it was her project. When she submitted her piece, she waited an agonizing two months to hear back on the winning submissions. Unfortunately, her piece wasn’t selected as a winner, and I watched her face fall during the ceremony when another girl from her class won the art division prize. Would she have won had she changed up her picture? Possibly. But the more important lesson I felt was that she learn to make her own decisions and be allowed to express her vision in her picture.

Allowing Our Children to Be Who God Made Them to Be

The situation was just one of several I’ve struggled with over the years (in varying forms with all of my children): relinquishing my tendency to form them into the people I think they should be and letting them be who they are.

Because though my daughter grew in my womb and has been entrusted to me as a daughter — she belongs to God and needs to flourish into what He always intended her to be. Because that person, frankly, is going to be far better and do far more than what either of us could imagine.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God spoke those words to Jeremiah about the ministry he would have as a prophet, telling him that he had selected him for this task before he even created him. Just as God knew Jeremiah before He made him, God knew our children before they were even on our radar.

David says a similar idea in Psalm 139:13-16:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

When David speaks of being “woven together,” the words are translated from the Hebrew word “raquam,” which means “weaver” or “embroiderer.” David identifies God as the ultimate Weaver — One who bent lovingly over the work of forming him. In the same way, God knit together our children in the secret places of the womb with careful care as to the length of their days, what they will accomplish on earth, and their temperament and gifts (which, by the way, are the perfect ones needed to carry out His call on their lives).

When I approach parenting with the knowledge that my children were intimately formed and loved by God before I knew and loved them, I realize I am, in the words of Matthew Henry, an “instrument” — an instrument in the hands of God to raise this oh-so-valuable little person to both know God (Psalm 78:4-6; Deuteronomy 4:9) and fulfill the plans of God (Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:28). In response to this knowledge, I have to let go of some of my own plans for my children and my desire for control.

I’m not saying we as parents don’t provide structure for our kids or make choices for them at times that go against what they want. Today, kids’ rebellion against the Word of God is often seen as merely letting them be who they are — when their choices are far from what God desires for them (Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 29:15). As Christian parents, we must train them to adhere to God’s ways and walk in right paths, as part of knowing Him (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:1). But what I am saying is that we attempt to consider our children’s preferences and interests along the way, rather than stunt their growth with our own often stifling expectations and demands (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4).

This may sound like a relatively easy task, but it’s not so easy when our kids express ideas that veer from our own, show interest in activities we have no interest in, or perhaps want to follow a track that is different than we envisioned for them.

A former pastor of mine shared in a service about the time when he had to let go of the baseball dream he had for his son. As an avid baseball fan and high school athlete, the pastor hoped his son would follow suit. But to his dismay, his son told him one day during a baseball game, “I hate this.” Though his grown-up son enjoys watching baseball, he never “took” to playing the game. It was a moment where his pastor-father had to evaluate and asses that as a father he could try and force his son to live out the dream he had for him, or he could instead look for ways to bring out the son’s God-given talents and abilities. As you can guess, he did the latter.

Awe for Our Kids as God’s Creation Helps Us Be the Parents We Should Be

I don’t believe any of us as Christian parents enter into the parenting journey hoping to be rigid narrow-minded tyrants that get into constant conflict with our children. However, we can’t always foresee how our children will affect us with their distinct personalities and differences, and frankly, we don’t always best know when to assert our authority or when to let our children have their way.

While we won’t always get it right, if we attempt to remember that our children were uniquely made by a creative God, as told of in Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139, we can better evaluate situations and let some minor things go when it comes to our kids’ ideas about how they want to draw a picture for a project — or perhaps spend their free time or style their hair — and we can save our energy for drawing the line on the issues that really matter.

In addition, it’s when we acknowledge that we don’t have all the wisdom and we’re in a position of humility and dependence on God and His Word to best learn how to instruct our children that He can speak to us and help us navigate the issues that arise between us and our children.

Dependence on God and knowledge of the value our kids have will help us approach even our most challenging days as an opportunity to be ever aware of the awesome task we’ve been given as parents: to help raise God’s kids!

Related Resources:

For a more in-depth look at Psalm 139 and the value each of us have in the eyes of God, check out my previous article on being known and loved by God.

Don’t have time to read? Listen to the corresponding podcast episode where I talk with co-host Suzy Lolley and blog member Rachel Howard about the idea of being intimately known by God.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How to Better Love Your Spouse

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I hesitate to compare marriage to football, but there are a multitude of meaningful parallels. Many people love the game because of the suspense. No two games are the same. No two marriages look the same either.

My husband and I often talk about how some couples love to attend every event together. Where one goes, you will see the other. That’s not us. He needs social time; I need quiet time. When he is social, I get my quiet time. I don’t resent the time he spends away from me, and he doesn’t resent me for not needing him every moment. However, in the beginning of our marriage, we did try to make our marriage look the way we thought others expected it to look. We were so busy trying not trying to be ourselves that we could not function as a whole. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the quarterback get up when they call the defense in. It isn’t his role. In football, it is called a “team” because each player fills a special role, just like a husband and a wife each fill a special role in their marriage.

One term I know from football (and I don’t know many) is a “turnover.” One team can have the ball in the opposing team’s territory, close to scoring, when the defense intercepts a pass. Or the offense fumbles the ball, and the momentum falters. Sometimes a team has a chance to win a tied game just by kicking the extra point, yet they still miss the field goal. Marriage, like football, can have turnovers.

Preventing Turnovers in Marriage

In my marriage, our first “turnover” happened quickly. We were married in December and had our first child the following October — unplanned. We hardly had time to get used to being married before we also had a baby to love. Then there were all the small things that presented themselves as obstacles, like his mom’s perfect cooking. How could I compete when my specialties were Ramen noodles and frozen pizza? And then there were his buddies — friends from high school, friends from college, softball friends, basketball friends (for the winter months when it was too cold to play softball), deer hunting friends, dove hunting friends, turkey hunting friends. Let me be fair by stating that some of these friends spanned multiple categories.

His multitude of friends meant that we were constantly invited to cookouts, weddings, and birthday parties. As I already mentioned, I like my quiet time. The problem was that I was in a new city and home, newly married, and rapidly gaining a lot of weight, not just from the baby. I felt discouraged and insecure and was overwhelmed by my new role as wife and all of the new demands on me. I wanted to be excited about all these social gatherings, but I wasn’t. I wanted to like deer meat as much as my husband and his friends, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put it in my mouth; I started gagging when I even thought about it.

For my own iniquities, it was probably much worse for my husband in our first year together, though you would have to ask my husband for details. The point is that, as soon as we found common ground on one issue, the more problems we had to work through. These didn’t even include the larger issues that presented themselves like money struggles, family dynamics, sickness, and death of loved ones.

Perhaps for you in your marriage, the threats look different. Turnovers can come at a marriage in many forms. Our phones, tablets, and computers can put a barrier between our connectedness to each other. Other people and obligations can be a barrier. However, the Bible tells us how to protect our unity and avoid “losing the ball” to the opposing team (the enemy). The strategy is simple: We love God first, then others as ourselves.

From Matthew 22:37 we read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” It’s one of my favorites to meditate on. Follow that one up with Matthew 22:39,Love your neighbor as yourself,” and it gives a clear depiction that life focused on only on myself and my needs is not of the Lord. My ability to love my husband intentionally — who is much more than a neighbor to me — comes first from my love of the Lord. I can’t love him well when it is all about me. Honestly, I don’t even like myself on those days I don’t spend with the Lord, so I certainly can’t expect him to. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t care for ourselves. As the verse suggests, it just means that we care for others (i.e. him) just as well.

From experience, I can tell you that when I do not begin my day with my Bible, my devotional, and my prayer journal, my husband is likely to pay the price. And that is because I begin those days focused on myself. Conversely, when my first moments of each day and my identity are grounded in the Lord, my actions and reactions to my spouse are more likely to come from God’s description of love — patient, kind, selfless, humble, forgiving, persevering (1 Corinthians 13:3-13).

One morning when I was spending time with the Lord, I recognized a yearning for unconditional love. I remember thinking of all the ways I wish I could receive it from my husband. Life would be so easy if this was a state we could actually reach as humans. I would never feel judged. I wouldn’t have to feel that I was under-performing. I get on these (really short-lived) binges where I feel like I am Wife-of-the-Year material at times, but the reality is that I probably wouldn’t even qualify for Wife-of-the-Moment.

God impressed upon me amid this daydream of unconditional love that this is what HE offers us. Of course! How could I have been so apathetic to His love? I can’t expect it from others, but I can expect it from God. In realizing this each day, I don’t need to get down when my husband can’t meet all my needs. Because God does. It’s freedom! Through accepting the love of my Savior, I am freer to love my God and my husband.

Furthermore, this same love given to me by God is offered to my husband and, with it, the same freedom. While I may be a secondary source of love and support for him, I am not personally responsible for meeting his every need. He must have his needs met by God. When we are both receiving God’s unconditional love, our strength and connectedness is much greater, not to mention our ability to defend against turnovers.

Marriage Is About Going Through Life Together

When issues interfere within the marriage, we play opposition. We actively protect and strategize to work out the issues. When outside interference initiates problems, we play defense by drawing our strength each day from God and His Word, protecting one another as naturally as our own instincts to protect ourselves. There’s a plan for dealing with the next turnover. The effort is made — holistically — for a purpose much higher than a single individual. Otherwise, a husband and a wife may grow apart from focusing on individual, selfish goals. Marriage should be played to win, and that means going through life together.

When we take on marriage this way, I can stomach a few more social gatherings than I am comfortable with. My annoying habit of gagging over deer meat won’t matter so much to my husband. I will be able to praise his mother’s cooking with him instead of feeling inadequate when my cooking doesn’t measure up. What do these things matter in a world that is — first and foremost — about God? Loving Him first fuels us with the love inside to persevere in marriage — so that we can in turn love each other. No one likes defeat, but can you imagine a football game where one team goes home at halftime simply because they were losing for moment?

There will be moments when you feel like you are losing, but we must see the game through to the finish. God hasn’t given up on us, so let’s not give up yet on our spouse.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey

After “retiring” from teaching in 2013, Rebecca is currently back at it as a high school Teacher on Assignment where she is able to help students identified as at-risk for not graduating on time. The in-between years, she worked as a therapist in private and public practice. Her interests are in helping others, hiking, kayaking, gardening, dancing, and reading. She loves exercise, nutrition, and natural healing. After completing her doctorate in organizational psychology, she plans to lead others to improve leadership, career, and personal life-skills and maybe even author a few works. In every role, she feels there is an opportunity to model the grace and redemption given to us by Jesus. Rebecca lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and three boys (the middle child is a Weimeraner).

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3 Lessons We Can Learn from the Woman in Proverbs 31

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As a starry-eyed bride 18 years ago, I vowed I would never turn into some of the old boring married women I had seen growing up in the church. I would never snap at my husband, let the fire in our sex life die, or allow a divide in communication to grow.

But then I got married and realized that marriage is not that easy. Like many women, I have often surveyed the list of attributes describing the woman in Proverbs 31 and felt that I don’t measure up. It’s impossible to be like her, so why try? But I think what Proverbs is really saying isn’t just that we should abide by a list, but that we should continually look for ways to bring good to our family and community.

Proverbs 31:10-31 models for us three ways we can be wise and do just that.

3 simple principles we can implement as wives from Proverbs 31:

1. Keep faithful instruction on our tongues.

We as women have the unique opportunity of speaking into the lives of our children or those in our immediate realm that we can mentor. Often, our children are around us the most. They will come to us with all sorts of questions and concerns — at times that are extremely inconvenient or unexpected, and we have a choice to engage or stay silent.

Some time ago, while driving with my kids to a friend’s house for a playdate, my then kindergarten-age daughter launched a question from the backseat that I wasn’t expecting: “Mom, why doesn’t Jessica like me? She likes Haley better. Haley is prettier.” (*Names of friends have been changed.)

Whoa! I wasn’t expecting my daughter to drop this morsel of information in my lap at this juncture. We had made it through the school year without her ever mentioning this specific concern. Sure, this particular girl’s name had come up, but not in this way. I realized underneath my daughter’s question was fear: A fear that she didn’t measure up to this “prettier girl” in her class. So I asked her a question of my own from the front seat, “Elsbeth, who made you?”

“Jesus,” she responded.

“Did Jesus make Haley look exactly the way He wanted her to look?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Jesus made Elsbeth pretty and special in her own way. You don’t have to look like Haley to be pretty,” I explained.

I then told a story about how I had latched onto some girls I wanted to be friends with as a middle-school student that weren’t good friends for me. Because of my desire to earn the attention of these girls, I hadn’t noticed the friends that I already had in my path. I told her that I had learned a secret: Jesus would provide friends if you asked Him, but they wouldn’t always be the friends you necessarily thought you wanted or needed.

This conversation we had was a chance for me to help her root her identity not in what others thought of her or her appearance, but what God said about her and what the truth of Scripture said about identity. Rather than ignore those concerns or questions when they come or brush them off because we’re busy, we can see them as golden moments of opportunity to speak God’s truth into the lives of our children or the young people we serve as an example/mentor to.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (v. 26).

2. Provide for the members of our household.

I remember once in a preschool orientation for my daughter how the director shared that all she ever did was go to the store. When teachers needed supplies, she went to the store and bought what was needed. And because she ran a daycare with many teachers and students, she was always at the store. I can relate.

Though I am not a preschool teacher, I am a mom of three and I spend a whole lot of time at the store buying groceries, household supplies, essentials for my children’s school projects, deodorant for my husband, clothes for my growing kids. Someone always needs something. And, oftentimes, the someone that picks it up is me.

While I spent a whole lot of time shopping for myself as a single girl and young married wife, now our limited money is usually divided each month to meet my children’s needs: Who is in need of shoes? Who has no shorts for summer? Who has outgrown their underwear? Off I go to fill the ever-evolving list. Clearly, this can be exhausting, but the passage tells us that women have a unique role of providing for their families’ needs. I can tell you that my husband has no idea what size shoes my kids wear or who is running low on underwear.

The roles don’t necessarily have to be defined the same in every relationship, but women have been gifted to both assess and take care of the needs of the people in their households.

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants” (vv. 14, 15)

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (v. 21)

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27).

3. Bring honor to our husband.

The fiction novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, focuses on a small Southern town in the 60s where the white women of the town have racist attitudes and often mistreat their African-American maids. Encouraged by an up-and-coming journalist, the African-American women get the courage to tell their stories of mistreatment, and a fallout ensues after the book is published and their white employees learn of their truth-telling. Granted, although I like the idea of marginalized women getting a voice and speaking out against injustice, I don’t agree with the way some of the women go about doing it, as their methods are about retaliation.

However, there are so many insights that one can learn from the characters, even beyond racial ones — even if it’s what not to do in a situation. In particular, one character that stood out to me is a woman shunned by the other women in her community. She is a white woman that is not liked by the other white women in town because of her lack of family connections, which makes her undesirable for the other status-obsessed women. But she doesn’t help matters any. She wears tight, revealing clothing and acts in ways that don’t stack up women in the friend department. At a social gathering, she gets drunk and makes a scene in front of the whole town.

Clearly, though she isn’t intentionally trying to disgrace her husband, her actions are those that don’t exactly make people think highly of him. Elsewhere in Proverbs it tells us that a wise woman builds her house while a foolish woman tears hers down (Proverbs 14:1). A wise woman acts in ways that will help people think highly of her husband and family. While we shouldn’t pander to the opinions of others, we can show self-control by the way we dress and present ourselves at work and church functions; we can keep our words in check by not rebuking or speaking ill of our husband in public; we can build him up on social media; we can make ourselves available to him when he comes home from work.

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (v. 11).

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23).

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her” (v. 28)

Conclusion:

The points I mentioned don’t encompass all of what we can learn from the woman in Proverbs 31, but these are a few practical things we can do to begin to emulate the example of a godly woman given to us in this passage. The book of Proverbs is bent on helping us to live wise lives — and as it shares with us at the end of Proverbs 31, such living is not without reward. Orienting our actions and lives in such a way that brings good to the members of our household and others around us is ultimately going to bring good our way as well.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (vv. 30,31).

*Updated March 10, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Marital Intimacy: Practical Tips to Enhance Your Sex Life

 

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As this is the month of love, I wanted to take some time to give a few practical points of encouragement and advice, as well as resources, to the married readers out there.

This will be an overview of some of the most common issues that arise in couples’ sex lives. I hope to provide some practical tips and resources that may be beneficial. I also hope to normalize some of the very common struggles that arise. As one of my good friends would often say, “Two of the most healing words in the English language are, ‘Me too.’ ” Know you are not alone in any problem or struggle. Many have walked through it before you, and you have Emmanuel — God with us — by your side every step of the way. With that, let’s dive in!

Practical Advice to Improve Your Sex Life

1. Discuss what is pleasurable and appealing to both partners.

Talk about your sex life with one another! For some reason, we often think sex should just come naturally and we don’t need to communicate about it, but that is so untrue. We need to talk to our spouse about the things he does that arouse us or the things he does that are, well, not-so-arousing.

This conversation is best had after the heat of the moment where it can usually be received with more grace and less embarrassment or offense. Giving each other insight into your experience allows it to be more pleasurable for each of you. There is freedom in the marital bed to explore, learn, and have fun. That being said, 1 Corinthians 6:12 (CSB) states, “Everything is permissible for me — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me — but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Freedom must always be balanced with self-control. To me, this means that if both couples cannot say “yes” with their whole heart, then it does not have a place in the marital bed. No sexual act should ever cause a spouse to feel used, less than, or hurt. The marriage is about a partnership, and we are called to love one another as Christ loves the Church. He loved us so much that He died for us. If we are forcing our spouse to do something they are uncomfortable with or do not feel peace about, we are placing our needs before theirs and possibly causing one another to sin.

2. Make intimacy the goal, not orgasm.

If there was one message I could share about sex, this is it. To me, this encompasses so much of God’s heart. While I believe He gave us orgasms as a complete gift (fun fact: they are completely unnecessary to reproduction and most living creatures do not have them), I do not believe God ever wanted them to be our focus. He knows our hearts so much better than us and created us to be in community.

While orgasm may help us to feel close to our spouse, the nearness does not last near as long as a deeper intimacy. This type of intimacy is fostered both inside and outside of the bedroom by mutual submission, service, quality time, and a foundation in the Lord. I encourage you to check your heart’s motivation as you engage sexually with your spouse. I so often find myself feeling like an encounter was a failure if one or both of us did not experience an orgasm, but that is such a deceptive way of viewing that interaction! I end up feeling more distant from my husband than close to him, which I believe is exactly where the enemy would like us to be.

Orgasms can be impacted by so many things — stress, hormones, and performance anxiety to name a few. This cannot be the standard by which we measure our sex lives. I believe God’s standard is intimacy, yada sex — truly knowing and connecting with our spouses. Seek pleasure with your spouse within that covering and make intimacy and honoring one another the ultimate goal.

3. Talk about frequency.

Again, talk about it! I cannot tell you how much this simple conversation changed my sex life with my husband. We too frequently put unrealistic expectations on ourselves or on our spouse that could be greatly changed by some clear communication. In every couple there is going to be what is called a desire discrepancy — essentially one spouse is going to want to have sex more often than the other. That is because we are uniquely created human beings, so we are rarely going to spontaneously desire one another at the exact same time (as much as the movies and TV shows would lead us to think otherwise).

It differs in each couple which partner has the higher desire. Both roles present their own unique blessings and challenges. The most important way we can avoid conflict and hurting one another as a result of this discrepancy is to communicate about it and lay out our hopes and expectations. Instead of assuming that you know what your partner wants, ask him!

I will never forget when I finally got up the courage to ask my husband what he desired and expected regarding the frequency of sex — it was so different that what I thought and lifted such a weight off my shoulders! I had been placing an expectation on myself that was unrealistic and constantly had me feeling like a failure. Discuss your desires and set achievable realistic goals. Keep in mind that these goals will likely change with seasons of life. Also, if you are the lower desire partner, begin to recognize receptive desire (saying “yes” to your higher desire partner’s initiation) as desire. Just because you may not be the initiator the majority of the time, does not mean you do not desire sex.

4. Don’t push through the pain.

Pain is a very common issue in sex. It is important that if you are experiencing ongoing pain during sex, you do not just try to push through it or accept it, but seek help, whether it be through reading resources that give tips for better understanding or seeking counseling from a Christian sex therapist. This is important because when we try to push through pain, we stop associating sex with intimacy and pleasure and start associating it with pain and disappointment. This then decreases our desire for sex, which can become more painful if we are less aroused.

For a practical tip, I greatly encourage you to use lubricant if you are experiencing pain during sex and see if that helps. Wet is a great one to try and PreSeed is a great option if you are trying to conceive. (Don’t lubricants just have the best names?) Keep in mind that some lubricants can make it more difficult to conceive, so do your research if that is your stage of life. If this does not help, please refer to some of the resources I will provide or seek counseling. There is victory for you in this — please do not give up!

5. Seek help if you are struggling with the aftereffects of sexual abuse.

It is heartbreaking to know how common this is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006), statistics show that 1 in 3 girls will be abused and 1 in 6 boys. As I discussed in my first article, sex is an incredibly powerful act and the enemy will do all he can to use what God created for good to bring about pain and destruction. But we serve an even greater God who is faithful to redeem and heal. He says, “I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).

His testimony in you will be great. I encourage you to seek healing through discipleship, small groups, counseling, and Christian sex therapy. God often chooses to heal us through His people, and this is a journey that is so difficult to recover from alone. Press into the more He has for you, friend. He weeps over your pain and seeks to heal the hurting places. He will honor your bravery as you take courage and seek the healing He offers.

6. Make an effort to keep things fun!

I know this can sound so cliché, but it truly is a challenge for most of us married couples. We get into our routines and sex can often become an afterthought or just something we need to check off our weekly to-do list. It can become something we dread if there is no excitement or fun in it. Some ways to incorporate more fun into your sex life:

  • Be willing to try new positions or plan to be intimate in a different room of the house if possible.
  • Plan a vacation or a mini-weekend getaway. Make sure that where you go and what you do are things that are refreshing and relaxing to you as a couple so that you have the energy to invest in time making love. For most women, our bodies are very sensitive to stress, and it can shut down our sex drives when we are overwhelmed. (Now, how often are most women in modern-day America not stressed?) Taking time to re-connect and enjoy one another’s company will likely help your body get ready for intimacy and make you more attracted to your spouse as you connect more deeply with him.
  • Prepare yourself and allow the Lord to stir desire in you for your spouse. This is sometimes a strange concept to grasp because we often want to think that God is somehow separated from our sexuality, but as we have discussed in the past two posts, He is the One who created our sexuality and intended sex as the ultimate way to connect with one’s spouse — mind, body, and spirit. That being said, I believe God is very faithful to answer the prayers of a wife who longs to enjoy sex and please her husband. What a blessing it is to our spouses when we enjoy the intimate act with them! Invite God to stir up desire in you and to bless your sex lives. Also, practically prepare yourself. For women, this may mean making time to shave your legs that morning or having a cute pair of underwear on that make you feel attractive and sexy. I have become convinced that lingerie was invented as much for women as it was for men because it reminds us that we were created as sexual beings, which can often be a part of ourselves that goes unnoticed or is pushed back behind work schedules, children’s needs, meal planning, running errands — you name it. Spending this time to prepare and invest in your sex life can make a huge difference.
  • Set the atmosphere — that may mean dimming the lights, putting on clean sheets, lighting up that favorite candle. Anything that helps you relax and be present goes a long way.

Bless you, sweet friends! It has been a privilege to come alongside you for these past few weeks. I pray that God would continue to mold us and our relationships increasingly into His likeness as we seek to know Him more intimately and honor Him with our thoughts and actions. Thank you for taking the time to read (or listen!). May He continue to whisper sweet things to your hearts as you trust in Him.

Related Resources:

A few of the Christian resources Amy recommends to help you navigate issues related to purity, sex in marriage, struggles with homosexuality, sex abuse, etc., to aid you in whatever season of life or stage you find yourself in:

A Celebration of Sex, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Christopher and Rachel McCluskey

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide to Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under God’s Control, by Elizabeth Elliot

A Celebration of Sex After 50, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Dr. Jim and Carolyn Childerston

Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, by Dr. Mark  A. Yarhouse

Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Dr. Kevin Leman

Soul Virgins: Redefining Single Sexuality, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson

If you need to find a certified Christian sex therapist in your area, check out the following link: http://abcst.sexualwholeness.com/abcst-therapists-list.

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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When the Heart Leads Us Astray

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One of the most popular phrases we tell others when trying to guide or encourage them is, “Follow your heart.” It seems harmless and altruistic enough — and I am quite sure it is often delivered with the best of intentions. But what does that mean exactly — and what are the implications to our sexuality?

Recently I read a chapter in When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch that really convicted me about this topic. It is something I had been pondering for a little while as I wrestled with how to identify when we are following God’s guidance using spiritual discernment versus following our own wishes and believing that is what He would have us do. When I read this chapter, it felt like the author was speaking to my heart and I think I underlined almost every sentence. I would like to share some of this with you as I believe it is very pertinent to our culture today and has direct implications on our sexuality.

What the Bible Tells Us About Our Heart

Let’s start with the advice of “follow your heart.” Within that piece of advice is the assumption that the heart is ultimately pure and can lead us to the “right path.” Unfortunately, this is not the truth. In fact, Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). I have always struggled with this verse because as a Christian and a counselor, I want to look for the best in people and find their strengths. I want to believe that under even the most tough exterior is a softness and a pure heart. While I do believe that each person is touched by the fingerprint of God and has His unique giftings and qualities within them, I cannot forget that in Welch’s words, “If we fail to recognize the reality and depth of our sin problem, God will become less important, and people will become more important.”

In other words, if we begin to rely on ourselves to be our guides through life, then Jesus is not truly our Lord. He becomes smaller than ourselves. We turn from His Scripture and voice, putting more faith in our emotions and wishes. Welch then states, “If you exalt the individual and make emotions the path to truth, then whatever you feel most strongly will be considered both good and necessary for growth.” We are encouraged to go after what we want and the thought of discipline or patience is often ignored, or worse, viewed as oppressive.

You may be starting to see how I believe this concept of following one’s own heart can relate to our sexuality. As we have become a more self-centered culture, integrity, discipline, and service have lost standing in our minds as priorities. Discipline is often viewed as repressing our desires — some may even say “God-given desires.” Let’s take premarital sex for example. In His Word, God asks us to reserve the sexual relationship for within the confines of the marital covenant. Song of Solomon 8:4 (CSB) says, “Don’t stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” Our Heavenly Father urges us to practice delaying gratification because it will build character that will support our marriage and will ultimately lead to increased satisfaction. It is not to oppress us or test our loyalty.

Though our heart may wish to be intimate physically with the one we love, God has asked us to be patient and trust His wishes. Submitting to God’s will over our own is a practice that we will have to walk out daily in marriage as we struggle through financial issues, infertility, buying a house, job loss, illness, miscarriage, child-rearing, and so many other challenges. If we enter marriage following our hearts first rather than God’s will, we are often placing ourselves in a position that can result in serving self first, others second, and God last. His intention is the exact reverse. This example of waiting until marriage is just one way this concept can affect our sexuality, but can apply to masturbation, pressuring our spouse to try a sexual act that they do not feel peace about, pornography, and so much more. The heart can easily give way to lust if we follow it.

God’s Will Over Our Feelings and Desires

When feelings and desires become our highest authority, we can often find a way to justify any action and can start to become controlled by these desires, which are frequently labeled as “needs.” Welch states, “Whatever you think you need, you come to fear. If you ‘need’ love (to feel okay about yourself), you will soon be controlled by the one who dispenses love. You are also saying that without that person’s love, you will be spiritually handicapped, unable to give love to others.” If these words are challenging you, please know that I am right there with you! As a counselor, I am quite familiar with discussion of desires and needs. I think it is very healthy to discuss and communicate with your friends and spouse (and God!) what you wish for and desire. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” After reading Welch’s chapter, however, I am encouraged to look at this verse in a new light.

Previously, I always focused on the second part of the verse. Now I notice just how important that first piece is: “Take delight in the Lord . . .  and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If we take delight in something, let’s say new babies, we spend time adoring them and just being in their presence. We long to get to know their personalities and just genuinely derive joy from their existence. If we were to spend time with God like this, I cannot imagine how much He would change our hearts! The desires of our heart would be molded into His own as we were made increasingly into His likeness. I truly believe that as we seek Him, He even removes or weakens our desire to sin because our desire to glorify Him is so much stronger than our flesh.

In Welch’s words, “There will be some situations where we should say that Jesus does not intend to meet our needs, but that he intends to change our needs.” He will mold these desires and needs into His will for our lives. He will provide a community around us who pushes us towards a pursuit of purity and freedom in Him. He wishes to partner with us. Our emotions truly are a gift when surrendered to Him, but we cannot be ruled by them. If so, our hearts can lead us astray. And they will. All of us will sin and fall short at times as we put our desires above God’s call on our lives. But He is faithful to forgive if we will repent and come back to Him. Then, my friend, take delight in Him, for in His Presence is freedom and joy and healing!

Related Resources:

Amy is with us for the month of February to talk about intimacy and give us a biblical perspective on relationships and God’s will for us when it comes to love and sex. Check out her first article, “3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex,” in this 3-part series and corresponding podcast episode by clicking on the link here or one provided below her author bio.

Next week she will wrap up the series with a candid look at issues that often arise in sex in the married relationship.

 

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex

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As I look around in culture today, the thought so often enters my mind, “Lord, where are you? How did we get here?” It seems that so much of our media is sex-crazed, almost to a point of worshiping it. Sex has become confused with the notion of love and intimacy. While it can certainly be an act that represents and expresses precisely those things, the way it is often portrayed in movies or shows is quite the opposite. It tends to be self-centered, greedy, and far more depictive of lust than love in the world. What are God’s thoughts on sex? What does His Word provide as our guidance on how we can align our thoughts, actions, and speech with His?

Coming into college, I had no idea what path I was going to choose for my life. On one hand, I had been introduced to Jesus and had been invited to a student ministry that I knew had been a large part of changing my sister’s life. On the other hand, I still struggled with a lot of insecurity, and my primary way of finding security in the past had been by seeking romantic relationships or friendships to give me a sense of value, so the partying side appealed to me greatly too. Through a series of events, I wound up attending a prayer and worship service with my sister, and God’s love touched me in a way that I had never experienced. I felt His conviction heavy upon my heart. As I repented of my sin, I felt His freedom and nearness like never before. I was sold and fell in love with Jesus and His people.

Shortly afterward, the student ministry advertised a new small group being offered that semester on God’s heart for sex. I was very intrigued because all I had ever been taught regarding what the Bible had to say about sex was that Christians were supposed to wait until marriage. Most Christians I knew would never dare talk to me about sex, so the idea that someone was inviting me to a group where we would openly talk about what the Bible had to say about sex was fascinating to me.

As I joined this group, God began to fill me with His passion for His creation of sex. I saw how He created boundaries around sex to protect us, not to deprive us. It was His perfect love for His children that created these laws, not His desire to test our obedience to Him. He knew what would be best for our hearts and spirits because He is the One who made us precisely as we are in the first place.

That being said, I would like to share with you a few of the Scriptures and truths that God revealed to me through this group. I pray that as you read His Word, God would ignite a fire in you to seek after and pray for His righteous sexuality to grow in us and in our nation.

What Scripture Teaches Us About Sexuality According to God’s Design:

1. Sex is innately pure.

The first commandment God gives to Adam and Eve as a couple is, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The Lord saw that it was “not good for man that the man should be alone” and gave him a helper in Eve; similarly, he made it so a man and woman would leave their mother and father and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24). God created sex and He made us to be incredibly relational beings. He is the one who formed our anatomy and chose for this to be the path through which He creates new human life.

How sweet that He chose to bring children from an act of love. Our sexuality was present before the Fall, so we can know that it was His intention from the beginning and was originally marked by complete purity. Now that we are living in the world after the Fall, however, this purity must be sought after with vigilance. In 2 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” because it is a sin again one’s own body, which is a “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

2. Sex is powerful.

In Ephesians 5:31, 32 (ESV), the apostle Paul begins by citing Genesis 2:24 regarding marriage and explains he believes marriage is a metaphor of Jesus’ union with His Bride, the Church: “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” No wonder it has such power! The act of sex not only has the potential to create life, but also the potential for the most intimate act of unity a couple can partake in, as it is an opportunity to connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Although we rarely do engage in this potential because of our own wounds and baggage, the potential remains there.

Just as in all things that God creates for good, the enemy will try to use them for destruction, so sex also holds the power for great harm as well. It is often used to abuse, shame, control, or exploit others. This is a heartbreaking reality that must be addressed as it is often the source of many women’s pain and skepticism in approaching sexuality — and rightfully so! But we know that God is a miracle-worker and whatever the enemy intends for evil, He will use for our good. He offers healing in His Presence and the presence of His people. He is faithful to make any experience a testimony to His goodness and power.

3. Sex offers potential for intimate oneness.

The Hebrew word often used to describe sex in the Bible is “yada” which means “to know.” Any sexual act requires incredible vulnerability and openness. Our physical nakedness represents a full bearing and surrender of ourselves. And this is the first thing that Satan attacked. In Genesis 2:25 (ESV), prior to the Fall, Scripture tells us, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” However, after Adam and Eve took of the fruit and ate, both of their eyes were opened. Therefore, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths in an attempt to hide their nakedness (Genesis 3:6, 7). Shame covered them and kept them from engaging in intimate relationship with the Lord and others.

It is so common for us to hide our sins, especially sexual sins, allowing them to grow in the darkness. Instead, we are urged to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12, ESV) and to “walk in the light . . . [to] have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). We are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

In other words, shame holds us back from true healing and reconciliation with God and others! Our Lover urges us to come out of hiding. In Song of Solomon 2:14 (ESV) He cries, “Let Me see your face. Let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” This vulnerability takes a great deal of confidence and trust, which is why I believe God has gone to such great lengths to warn us of its potential for harm if used outside of His good purposes.

Conclusion:

This is just a beginning into what God’s Word has to say about His divine plan for sex and includes some of the highlights that I have learned on my own journey of studying this topic. As our nation continues to indulge in the world’s way of viewing sexuality, I believe God is calling us to be lights in the darkness to offer hope and healing to those who have been hurt, disappointed, or disillusioned by what the world teaches. In the words of Chris and Rachel McCluskey in their book When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, “The church must take back sex and claim the truth that it belongs to God and it is good — but only when practiced within His guidelines . . . Our union as husband and wife bears testimony in the heavenlies to the promised consummation of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.”

Related Resources:

Like this article and want to read more from Amy? This article is the first in a 3-part series on love and sex. Check out Amy’s article next week about the deceptiveness of our heart and the following week for her tips on enhancing sex in the marriage relationship.

Don’t have time to read a post or prefer to listen to the points in podcast form? Check out the podcast episode above this article where Amy explains the major ideas and concepts discussed in her writing.

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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3 Things to Consider Before Entering Into a Dating Relationship

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I sat in the seat of the mini-van and watched my mom’s lips curl downward into a frown. She turned to me, “I think you need to be careful about how much of your heart you give away.”

I sulked in my seat, “I know what I’m doing.” In my head, a rebellious litany broke forth, Why does she have to be so strict. I am just fine! At 16, I didn’t think I needed her advice. I was pretty sure I knew everything I needed to know about myself and the object of my heart’s affection. However, years later, I would have to reflect back on that conversation and realize my mom was right.

I hadn’t been very careful about guarding my heart in a dating relationship, and I got burned. Just at the point when I thought our relationship would take off, he dropped me. It would take me years to get over the hurt and find healing. I should have heeded my mom’s advice and never entered into a relationship with him.

While we can’t always foresee how a relationship will turn out or protect ourselves from disappointment, we can be wise about whom we enter into a relationship with. Song of Songs 8:4 warns us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” In other words, we should be careful about allowing romantic feelings to be stirred in our heart.

As detailed later in the same passage, love is strong and “burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Songs 8:6). It is a wonderful connection God allows us to feel with someone else. Because the emotions are so strong, we need to be careful about opening our heart to just anyone.

We need to consider a few things before we enter into a dating relationship with him:

1. Our relationship with God.

While this may not sound like a logical place to start, we need to evaluate if we are in a good place with God at the moment. Are we regularly spending time with Him? Are we seeking His will for our life in prayer?

In order to have any hope of entering in to a godly union with another person, we need to focus on getting ourselves in a place where we are strong in our own relationship with the Lord. If we are solid in our spiritual walk, we will have better discernment about whom we should and should not date, and our priorities will be in the right place. If God isn’t the center of our life, we will be more likely to seek out someone to take that “savior” place and enter into an unhealthy relationship (where we are not consulting God about life or His will for our life).

2. His relationship with God.

The Bible talks about not being “unequally yoked” with another person (2 Corinthians 6:14, NKJV). In other words, we don’t want to choose someone who isn’t making God a priority. The reason for this is that no matter how handsome or charming or amazing this person is, we can’t foresee how this person will treat us years down the road. We may think he will change into a more spiritual person, but we can’t count on it.

A good way to know whether or not this person has a great relationship with the Lord is to not only observe his actions in various scenarios but to pay attention to what other people say about him. What kind of reputation does he have in the community? In his church? With mutual friends?

Once I went on a date with a good-looking guy in my college, He had just broken up with a previous girlfriend. He spent most of our first dinner date talking about her. Shortly after that date, a few of her friends urged me not to go out with him again. Apparently, his behavior toward his girlfriend had been less than desirable. We never went out again after that first date. He ended up moving away, but I felt uneasy because the things he said about himself didn’t match up with what people said about him.

Obviously, he had some baggage to work through, and he wasn’t a good candidate for a new relationship. When considering whether or not to enter into a relationship with someone, we should do our homework and find out a little about this person and what others say about him. Someone who has left behind a string of broken relationships or displayed a pattern of undesirable behavior is someone we need to stay away from.

3. Warning signs.

Perhaps some of you reading this struggle with people-pleasing. You struggle to say no and try to please those around you. In a dating relationship, you may make excuses for a person’s repeated bad behavior and disrespect of you because you don’t want the relationship to be over. You want to believe that it will get better, and you may struggle to assert yourself for fear that you will lose the relationship.

However, pay attention to the warning signs, that feeling in your gut that something isn’t right. Personally, as a young person I discovered that a guy’s actions say much more than his words. If he says great things in your presence and says he will call you, but then doesn’t, he isn’t really that committed to the relationship.

Years ago, a book called He’s Just Not That Into You came out. The author wrote it because he got fed up with the denial his female friends were living in. His main point in the book is this: If a guy is not calling and is evasive and doesn’t have time for you, He’s just not that into you!

Chasing after someone who doesn’t treat you well is never going to be a good scenario for you. While it may be painful to break if off initially, you will be happier in the long run. You will make space for a person who does treat you well to come along and practice setting boundaries that show you respect and value yourself and expect others to do the same.

Not too Late to Make Good Choices

If you are reading this and you know that you haven’t been wise in your dating relationships, it’s not too late to start. In addition, if you are feeling bad because not only have you chosen poor candidates to be involved with but have also veered outside the boundaries of God’s Word by getting too physical before marriage, know that there is no condemnation for you as a believer (Romans 8:1). You can repent and allow God to cleanse you and make a new beginning.

By making a conscious effort now to use wisdom in choosing a person to date, you will set yourself up for more peace and fulfillment down the road.

Related Resources:

If you need help breaking free of emotional connections from past unhealthy relationships, check out the articles on soul ties listed below the author box in the “Related articles” section beneath this post.

Also, if you struggle to form healthy relationships and allow others to love you because of low self-worth, these articles can help: Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks, Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself, Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself, and 4 Reasons Why You Should Forgive Yourself.

*Updated February 15, 2018.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships

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You enter into romantic dating relationships with the best of intentions and high hopes, but often, those relationships that you hoped would work out end, and you are left with feelings of regret, obsessive thoughts about the other person, and emotional baggage. In this age of serial dating, you can be married or in a dating relationship and still feel emotional ties to people from the past.

Is there a way to break soul ties from a past romantic relationship so that you can sever the thoughts and feelings holding you captive and fully embrace your current relationship or a relationship in the future?

The answer is yes. You can break free of unhealthy soul ties and get over past romantic relationships. However, to do so, you must understand what soul ties are and how they formed in the first place. God’s desire is for you to live free of emotional baggage and break negative ties with the past, but there are some steps you need to walk through in order to get free.

What are soul ties?

Soul ties are deep emotional connections with other people. Soul ties can form in friendships or romantic relationships. In fact, healthy soul ties are what God intended for us in friendships, family relationships, and the marriage relationship. The Bible doesn’t use the term “soul tie” but does speak of being connected on a soul level with others in a positive way — with friends, our spouse, family members and fellow believers (Ephesians 5:31; 1 Samuel 18:1). However, unhealthy soul ties can form in romantic relationships when you allow a person to rise to an unhealthy status in your life, or you are sexually involved with a person outside of the confines of marriage. (There are other reasons for unhealthy soul ties as well, but I will just focus on these two reasons in this article.)

God created sex for your enjoyment and pleasure, but He set sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage to protect you. When two people are physically intimate in a relationship outside of marriage, a deep soul connection is created that exists long after the relationship is over. Therefore, even if you try to move past a break-up with a person that you were physically intimate with, you won’t be able to without taking some key steps to sever the soul tie.

In addition, soul ties can form in romantic relationships even if a sexual relationship doesn’t occur. One way this can happen is by elevating a person to an unhealthy position in one’s life. Even as a Christ follower, another person can become a savior. Perhaps if you were lonely, you looked to another person to fulfill you in a way that only God can. When that relationship ends, even if the person didn’t treat you well or wasn’t right for you, you may still fantasize about getting back together with this person. Perhaps you have faced rejection in previous relationships so you latch onto a new relationship to help you feel good about yourself.

Whatever the case, here are a few steps you can take in order to be free of the emotional bondage an unhealthy romantic soul tie creates:

1. Repent and confess wrongdoing to God.

If you haven’t done so, confess your sexual sin or unhealthy obsession about a person to God and ask Him for forgiveness. Even if the relationship happened long ago, if you have never confessed to Him your sin, you can do so understanding that He grants full forgiveness for your wrongdoing the second you ask. If there are many people that you have been sexually involved with, go down the list and ask forgiveness for the wrongdoing in each relationship. If you have bitterness or unforgiveness, confess that to God and ask Him to help you forgive the other person. You may feel ashamed to go to God with your confession because you know that your actions departed from His Word. However, He already knows what you have done and repentance puts you in right relationship with Him and frees you of the guilt and shame you have been carrying.

Many people have a negative connotation of repentance, but repentance means simply to change one’s mind and go a different way. If you are currently involved in a relationship that has veered outside of the boundaries of God’s design, you can repent and go a new way by confessing your wrong and deciding to allow God’s Word and will to dictate your actions in that relationship. Confession means simply coming into agreement with God on the issue. So after you repent, allow God to help you draw boundaries so that you can be in alignment with His Word.

2. Turn to God.

After the process of repentance, continue to turn to God for healing and guidance. Severing romantic soul ties, even those forged a long time ago, can be a painful process. The reason that you most likely formed the soul tie to begin with was because the person or relationship provided something for you that you thought you needed. Even if you were not treated well in the relationship, breaking your soul connection with the person may be initially traumatic. You may have always hoped that you would get back together with that person. Or, perhaps if you are currently in a relationship that is unhealthy, you may not want to terminate the relationship because of the comfort and companionship the person provides.

Because of these reasons, you may go through a period of grieving for the relationship or not feel the effects of healing immediately after breaking the soul tie. You may feel empty and despondent. However, know that while breaking unhealthy soul ties in the short-term may be difficult, you will reach a place in the long-run where you feel lightened from your emotional baggage. In the process of healing, God needs to be the One you turn to in your pain. Otherwise, you will automatically turn to another person or thing to fill the void that you experience after your repentance.

3. Apologize for your wrongdoing to the other person.

Certainly, there are scenarios where you repent of an unhealthy soul tie and move on with your life. End of story. However, in some cases, there may be another component to the process of breaking free of negative soul ties. You might feel bitterness or anger against the other person for wrongdoing they have done to you or the way the relationship ended. In those cases, you need to apologize to the person for any wrongdoing you have done in your anger against them. The Holy Spirit will help identify the right course of action, but have you talked about the person maliciously behind their back? Have you hurled angry words in their direction? Have you retaliated in wrong ways in your place of hurt? If so, the Holy Spirit may prompt you to apologize to the individual for the wrongdoing.

In addition, another step I know was necessary in my own journey was to apologize to the other person for my part in the sexual sin. I know this is not going to be a popular step, and I have read many books and advice blogs on the subject that simply advocate confession (without apology to the other person for our part in the sexual sin). However, the Bible urges us not to be a temptation and stumbling block to another (Luke 17:1-4). If we tempt a person into sin or participate with them in sin (as we do when we are sexually involved with others outside of marriage), we should apologize to them for our wrongdoing in the matter.

Clearly, you need to use caution in this endeavor. I would advise keeping contact minimal and asking another person to keep you accountable in the process. A letter in most cases is most likely better than a meeting or phone call. You may have feelings re-ignited if you come into contact with an old flame, and it is advisable to simply state what needs to be stated and then no longer be in contact with the person.

I encourage you to pray about the right step for you in your circumstance. Obviously, certain scenarios exist where this step is not advisable, particularly in certain abusive relationships. If possible, seek out a Christian counselor or wise pastor to counsel you through your situation.

4. Let the past be in the past.

Sometimes, unhealthy soul ties can form with family members or friends for reasons not mentioned here (such as manipulation and control), and it’s possible to cut the unhealthy ties and set boundaries with the person and still maintain the relationship.

However, in terms of past romantic relationships, it’s best not to have contact with the other person once the unhealthy soul tie is broken. Continued meetings or contact with the other person will make it difficult for you to heal and move on. You may have to take some extreme measures such as discarding gifts or letters that the other person gave you, unfriending the person on Facebook, or requesting a transfer to another department. Sometimes the act of cutting an unhealthy soul tie in your life means making adjustments and setting boundaries so that you are not constantly reminded of the person.

You may feel like these acts are unloving, but truly, a past romantic interest that is interrupting your ability to be present with your spouse, fully engage in the relationships in your life at the moment, or grow in your relationship with God is not someone that you need in your life.

Conclusion:

Unhealthy soul ties in romantic relationships can form when we walk outside of God’s plan for relationships and sex or elevate a person to an unhealthy place in our lives. Thankfully we have a God who is in the process of restoration. Even if you have made many mistakes in your past and have a string of past relationships that are tying you down, there is freedom for you.

Unhealthy soul ties can be broken when we apply the remedy of repentance given to us in Scripture and take steps to turn from unhealthy relationships and find healing through Christ.                                                                                                                      `

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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