“People don’t need just sympathy, and shaming never helped anyone. However, empathy is the full embodiment of truth and compassion, and helps heal hurting hearts.”
-Mike Foster, People of the Second Chance
In our last post we began looking at the unintentional damage that takes place in many pastors’ offices, when wives of porn/sex addicts are encouraged that their husbands’ problems might get better if only they were more sexually available. The first two things ministry leaders who counsel couples need to understand about sexual addiction are:
If you are someone who has been hurt by the church and reading this blog post, let me be one voice among many who simply say “I’m so sorry.”
I’m sorry the church hurts so many of its own members.
I’m sorry for things that are said with the best intentions, for privileges or opportunities that are taken away because of your recovery and their fear, for being without a place, without community, without compassion, and times, without hope.
I’m sorry for your struggle with deep pains when others seem not to.
(Spoiler alert – everyone has deep hurts. Some just conceal it really really really well.)
Jesus is real and present. He meets us in the places where we hurt, the places we hide, the places we long to be fully known and fully loved.
In leading the women’s group through Sexual Sanity for Women this spring, I was continually drawn to how Jesus loved women caught in sex and love addiction – the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, and Mary Magdalene.
Jesus wasn’t repulsed by their sin or unhealthy relationships and habits. Jesus relentlessly pursued them, even when they changed the topic in conversation or were missing his point entirely. Jesus wasn’t flustered when they were brought bare naked before him. Jesus wasn’t superficial in suggesting a substitutionary solution to a gaping wound of addiction. Jesus went for the jugular. Jesus offered hope and connection while these women were in a place of desperation and loneliness.
The woman at the well wanted to be fully known. She marveled at how deeply Jesus knew her. Everyone else already knew everything she had done. But after meeting Jesus, she ran to tell people “Come and meet this man who told me everything I’ve ever done!”
The woman caught in adultery wanted to be free of shame. She was dragged, unclothed, and completely exposed in front of not only Jesus, but a large group of men. Jesus didn’t judge her. AT. ALL. He simply said “Go and sin no more.” She left covered in grace.
Mary Magdalene was someone Jesus met and engaged in community with, so much so that she is one of the women at the foot of the cross in Christ’s last moments. Jesus wasn’t afraid to be seen with her. Jesus cherished her in a way no other man had. Jesus healed the wound of unhealthy male relationships. She learned how men can be our brothers through Christ and the love of the disciples.
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry the church has hurt you. It’s hurt me too. But we are human. Part of recovery is healing. This healing is continual, consistent and exponential. When we are actively pursuing recovery, we realize how much we need grace and we are able to extend that grace to others.
Jesus set an amazing example. But He is Jesus. We get a tiny peek at what heaven will be like through being a part of the local body of Christ in our communities. And they are absolutely imperfect. People say the wrong things, do the wrong deeds, and think the wrong thoughts.
Have you ever thought about the responsibility we in the recovery community have as part of the church? Part of telling our story is sharing our recovery with safe people who are experiencing the same addictive behaviors we were once enslaved to. Many in the church are walking through a dark time of addiction, whether they are experiencing it themself or as a spouse, sibling, child or friend of someone who is enslaved to addictive behaviors. Christ died to set us free. Through recovery, we learn tools and healthy behaviors to become those completely unencumbered, free children of God. Even those in the local body are experiencing addiction. It is evident and active in the body of believers all around us. Whether it’s someone who hasn’t started recovery or someone who has been a sponsor for twenty years, Christ’s redemption and resurrection reaches into the recesses of the deepest parts of us, including our relationships.
It’s scary to expose yourself to others when you don’t know how they will react or who they will share your story with. It is your story to tell. Who is God calling you to share your story with? And how will your story impact someone else’s? These three women of the Bible have impacted my story. And they always will.
Jane DoE is a contributing writer to the Awaken blog. She facilitates an Awaken group in Birmingham, AL, for women who struggle with sex addiction. We’re excited that she is bringing us into her journey of recovery, as we realize that there are many other women who share her struggle. Our prayer is that through her journey, you’ll find hope and encouragement for your own.
Awaken also offers groups in Birmingham for men who struggle with sexual addiction, and for women who have been affected by their husbands’ or boyfriends’ addictions. Additionally, we have Twelve Step groups dealing with issues of addiction and control. CLICK HERE to get information on all of our group offerings. Or contact us with any questions you have.
Is it possible to overstate the impact that pornography, sexual sin, and sexual addiction have on the work of Christ’s church on earth?
Everyone in the small group just sat there. The awkward silence hung heavy in the room, like a heavy stage curtain that had just lowered onto everyone sitting in the circle. The bombshell had been dropped just a few seconds ago, but with each ticking second of silence it seemed like years. Continue reading I Don’t Know What To Do…
In the post “Pastors and Porn,” I asked a lot of questions and didn’t give a lot of answers. The questions revolved around what should be done in a situation where a pastoral staff member’s struggle with pornography and/or other sexual sin becomes known. Continue reading Pastors and Porn: Disqualified?
Before I was exposed in my sin and addiction I was part of an accountability group for about ten years. Continue reading Accountability…love the concept, need a better word.
In the previous two posts, we discussed how difficult it is for a man to confess (in general) and how extremely difficult and terrifying it is to confess sexual failure to our wives. Continue reading Coming Clean…The Critical Step of Confession (part 3)
In the last post I talked about the struggle of confessing our failures. Regardless of whether they are sexual failures Continue reading Coming Clean…The Critical Step of Confession (part 2)
When I was active in my sexual addiction, one of the single largest components that kept me trapped was the terrifying thought of confessing to my wife Continue reading Coming Clean…The Critical Step of Confession (part 1)