More than a Physical Act: A Story of Grace

Luke Holter in his book Filthy Fisherman says, “Nearly every Christian I know has an amazing story of God’s grace and redemption. None of us are above His grace; we all badly need it. Once we have been redeemed, our job is to tell that story of redemption” (Emphasis added). And here, in the final post of the marriage series, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

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I often think of how my husband and I are going to approach the topic of sex with our children someday, because our story is a story of grace and healing. My relationship history includes manipulation and abuse (you can read more about that in Toxic) as well as me going along and making my own mistakes. Sex and it’s counterparts were just things on a “Don’t” list for me. I didn’t understand what the harm really was. I mean, I knew God created sex to be in the context of marriage, but I didn’t understand why.

Needless to say, I had trouble with staying away from things on that list. I didn’t understand the emotional bondage that came along with physical acts. Though I didn’t have sex until my wedding night, I had given a lot of myself away prior to meeting my husband, and the breakup that followed devastated me.

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My heart breaks when I see others go through things like this. It breaks my heart when people believe society’s lies that sex is casual. It breaks my heart when people weaponize sex. It breaks my heart to see the aftermath of breakups when too much was given. What breaks my heart more is when I see people looking down their noses, thinking that others are undeserving of grace – as if that’s our call to make. Christ came to redeem all of us, not just those whose sins we deem are worthy of being saved from. It reminds me of the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus didn’t tell her that her actions were okay, but He didn’t condemn her either. This is the kind of scandalous love and grace we are called to give if we call ourselves followers of Christ. We are called to love people with the truth, but we are not called to condemn them. I can’t tell you how much it hurt when I heard people shaming those caught up in sexual sin while I sat there with my dirty little secret holding back tears and shame.

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When my husband and I have kids, I want to be honest with them – about the truth of what sex is and also about my mistakes. I want them to know that sexuality is not a bad thing. I want them to know that God designed marriage and He designed sex as a part of that. It is the ultimate display of intimacy and vulnerability – it is becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It is so much more than a physical act. 

I want our kids to grow up knowing that they can ask questions and that they can talk to us freely. I also want my kids to know that we love them unconditionally. I pray that our children will hold tight to the truth and that they will protect their hearts. I pray they will not go through the heartbreak that so many others and myself have gone through. But if my child comes home one day, crying because she made a mistake, you can bet I will be right there crying with her, not because her actions are excused, but because I have been there and because God didn’t turn me away. How could I look at her with shame and condemnation? How could I spit in the name of grace?

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While others looked at me with shame and condemnation, God looked at me with love and grace. I know that He grieved over my choices and He rejoiced when I repented. And I know that I am thankful for the grace that was lavished on me while I was undeserving. I know that while the decisions I may have made were not wise, I experienced God’s grace and love all the more, and I can’t help but extend it to others.

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To those of you misguided by society’s portrayal of what sex should be, it’s not true. It is so much more than the cheap version being sold.

To those of you who have a warped view of sex because of what others have done to you, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This isn’t all there is. There is hope and there is healing.

To those of you who are critical of those caught up in sexual sin, remember grace. Don’t let your hearts be hardened.

To those of you caught up in mistakes you have made, I’m crying with you. It’s not over. Grace is so much bigger than any mistake you will ever make.

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Photo Credit: Bekah Russom

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Toxic 

Lately I’ve been revisiting the past few years of my life, seeing how I got from point A to point B, from the girl I was to the woman I am. I’ve thought of the periods of grief, of joy, of growing. I’ve looked back and I’ve seen purpose. I’ve seen God’s hand in every season of my life. I see how He worked out every horrible thing into something good – even if the only good that came out if it was to relate to someone else.

If I were to tell you everything that God’s hand has been in, every bad situation that He turned for the good, it would take writing a book. Instead, I’m going to tell you today about just one area.

Since I was a Freshman in high school I had a tendency to get myself into toxic relationships – not all of them were, but some. It started when I got my first boyfriend. I was fourteen, naive, and honestly just didn’t know that the way I was being treated was awful.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be talked to like I wasn’t a person.

I didn’t know that I was being manipulated.

I just didn’t know, but when I figured out – with the help of my best friend – that the way I was being treated was not okay, I ended the relationship. And the three months that I was in that relationship impacted me for years.

I then dated someone else and he broke up with me because I stood my ground. Though I was heart broken, I moved on with a sense of dignity.

My Sophomore year of high school I got into a relationship that I was in for nearly two years. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t meant to be. But when it ended, I was heart broken so badly I didn’t know how I would go on; however, though I had been following Jesus for a few years at this point, He truly became my anchor at this time.

Despite that I began to trust Jesus and rely on Him so much more during this season of my life, I still wasn’t truly content in Him. Almost a year after that relationship ended, I dated someone else, someone I really shouldn’t have.

Things were okay at first and then red flags started popping up. I should have left, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be alone. But because I didn’t want to be alone, I allowed myself to be treated horribly.

I set standards and boundaries.

He said he agreed.

Then he pushed them.

I pretended everything was fine.

The stress of dealing with – and hiding – the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred in the relationship left me physically ill.

It got to the point where I wasn’t staying because I didn’t want to be alone, I stayed because I was scared to leave.

Finally, after breaking down and telling my best friend what had really been going on, I ended the relationship.

The aftermath of that first relationship was nothing compared to this one. It left me so broken, so scared, so untrusting, that when I began dating my husband, I was terrified – even though I knew from being friends with him and knowing his character that he wouldn’t treat me like the others that came before him.

If I had to change plans, I prepared myself for the backlash – it never came.

If things were moving too fast emotionally and I told him we needed to slow down, I waited for him to get upset and tell me how stupid I was being – he never did.

He took everything at my pace. He was so patient, kind, and loving. It was amazing – and strange.

He accepted my past and took me as I was.

It was a beautiful display of selfless love.

But it still wasn’t enough.

I was still hurting. I was still scared. I still hadn’t truly given it over to Christ. So for much of the time that we were dating and engaged, I started giving Christ the pieces of my past, and for every piece I gave Him, He returned it with a peace of His own.

I truly forgave.

I truly moved on.

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I have been married to my sweet husband for four months now. I am at peace with my past. If it starts to try to work its way to the surface, I remind myself that it served a purpose.

Because of that last, awful relationship I learned what it meant to be content in Christ.

I learned to trust God with my relationships.

And, in a roundabout way, my best friend ended up dating her husband because of it!

One of the most important purposes I have found looking back on this time is the empathy I’ve gained because of it.

When I see someone in a toxic relationship, I no longer wonder critically why they don’t leave.

I look and I know that there are so many reasons why they might not, and it breaks my heart.

I look and I know what it feels like to be treated like you are less than human.

I look and know what it feels like to not know how to get out.

I look and I know that there is hope found in Jesus to heal their brokenness.

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This post wasn’t easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for some time. Though I have forgiven, moved on, and healed, it is still not easy to relive; however, it’s still part of my testimony. It’s a part of my life that screams about God’s faithfulness. So I sat down and wrote to share hope. Hope that God works in even some of the worst times in our lives. Hope that we are not alone in these dark times that we’ve gone through. Hope that someone out there understands. And, most importantly, hope that Christ is Lord even in the dark times, and He is the Healer of all broken things – including hearts.

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

Photo credit: unsplash-logoKristof Rasschaert