Eight Skills for Sexual Integrity: Run to God's ER for Sexual Sin
The Great Physician is always on call to provide emergency care
by Doug Rosenau
Part Seven of the eight-part series.
Imagine this scenario: You live in your very own beautiful, secure, gated community--an unbelievable place to relax. One morning you wake up to find that a plague has come in overnight, ruining everything.
This scenario actually happened.
Remember Eden, with its "supercouple," Adam and Eve? They were the only mates ever who were truly naked, physically and emotionally, and never had a trace of shame or self-consciousness. Sex and marriage were the best they would ever be. Adam and Eve romped, played and connected. But in one moment, they destroyed it all.
I am so glad we have a God who can think on His feet and creatively improvise. The Almighty jumped in and said, "I'll have to cover your private parts, because you won't be able to handle naked as well now. I will salvage My gift of sexuality. I will deal with sin and invent skills to redeem your ruptured relationships."
Now, when we're broken and hurting, especially sexually, we can go to God's emergency room. This ER is equipped with the tools for rectifying the situation and getting back into God's love and light and wisdom. We gain skill by using these tools every day, as we heal our relationships and regain integrity.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16, NIV). "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). Confession includes two important processes: bringing secrets to the light of day so we drain them of power (Satan loves to operate in secrecy and darkness), and allowing God and a caring person to see our ugliness and still love us. We let go of guilt and shame as we separate sin from sinner. We find out we are not imposters but redeemable sinners.
Here's an interesting point to consider about secrets and sin and confession: Some secrets, if confessed early, don't grow into full-blown sin. Getting those secrets out can head off trouble at the pass and prevent crippling lust or adultery. Terry can testify to this. When he first told his wife, Donia, about a colleague at work who had made a pass at him, she was angry. But then she helped him set boundaries and avoid fantasizing about the situation--or worse.
But is confession always enough to prevent or heal sexual misconduct? Jeff had confessed to his men's group his remorse over the way the Internet and pornography had taken over his life. He felt better, but he never took the next step: the change process of repentance.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). We must recognize and accept responsibility for destructive thoughts and actions as we make godly choices. Repentance means giving feet to remorse and making a 180-degree turn in the other direction, with lifelong changes.
Jeff never took responsibility, with God's help and the accountability of his friends, for avoiding temptation and creating new habits. Repentance and change did not come until he installed Net Nanny--an Internet-filtering software program--on his computer, found new and healthier ways for recreation and adventure, and learned to build intimate friendships. Repentance is truly an action step.
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13). Instant forgetting does not define forgiveness. It is a process of letting go of resentment and shame toward self and others. It is a choice we make independent of the other person's actions.
Sexuality is so full of mistakes, both sinful and immature, that we have to master forgiveness as one of God's healing arts. The ER won't function without it. I like to use the word "pardon" for forgiveness. Pardon means settling the ledger even though justice has not been satisfied. This separates sin from sinner and frees up emotional energy from shame, hurt and resentment, directing it into deepening and rebuilding love.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). "Grieve, mourn and wail...Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:9a,10). Grieving takes many forms, but they are all filled with cleansing, healing tears. Grief is not a place where we are to stay for long periods of time, but it is God's tool for mending losses and those broken places, as He moves us back into joy and peace.
As a single man in a new relationship with Christ, Jackson was saddened over his sexual past. He wept over his lost innocence and the women he had used. He also grieved that he was lonely, with so many walls around him. God slowly brought him to a new place of forgiveness, "soul virginity." God changed his tears into a love relationship with Himself.
"If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8b). Synonyms for "making amends" might be restoration or penance. I'm not talking about penance as punishment but as a tool of restitution that encourages repentant changes and restores intimacy.
Sid was furious when he discovered that his wife, Becky, had had an affair. He wanted to hurt her lover, and he wanted to punish her by having an affair of his own. He demanded that she grovel as he exacted vengeance. Both Sid and Becky had to grow up and practice confession, repentance, forgiveness and grieving.
As they were healing, Becky wanted to make restitution and take responsibility for restoring the damage she had done. She decided she would pay for therapy and, to rebuild trust, tell Sid exactly where she was during the day. They were grateful for God's ER.
We do not always notice sexual secrets in our lives. Consider what you may need to reveal and to whom. Choose appropriate confessors. It may be your wife, a close male friend or your pastor.
Skill Eight: Create practical theologies for doubtful issues
Missed earlier parts of this eight-article series? Just click on the skill you want to read-and learn everything you want to know about sexual integrity.
The Eight Skills for Sexual Integrity
Skill One: Plug into God's thinking and power
Skill Two: Meet nonsexual needs nonsexually
Skill Three: Discipline sexual fantasies and surges
Skill Four: Embrace masculinity and enjoy moms, sisters and daughters
Skill Five: Cultivate covenant monogamy and passionate intimacy
Skill Six: Make positive pre- and post-temptation choices
Skill Seven: Run to God's ER when broken
Skill Eight: Create practical theologies for doubtful issues
Dr. Doug Rosenau is a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Atlanta. He is the author of A Celebration of Sex (Thomas Nelson).
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