The ‘M’ Word.

On Sunday after one of my classes, a student came up to me with a question.  She had been told by a Christian counselor that masturbation was not a sin. She’d heard teaching on sex within the Church, but she’d never heard anyone address that specific issue.  She just wanted to know if her counselor was right.

That makes my heart feel tense. I made her a commitment right then and there that I would write a blog post on the topic this week.  (A commitment I’m regretting right now, because I’m already embarrassed that I wrote the word ‘masturbation.’)

Question of the week: what comes after sexual failure?

A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of blogs on sexual sin and what it looks like to respond to someone fighting lust.

There was one comment that resonated so deeply in my heart that I knew I’d have to write a whole post to respond:

I would like to know whats your advice if you have made mistakes sexually? specifically if you (by the grace of God) have not had sex, but have crossed several lines and not drawn your boundaries tight enough…

I’ve screwed up with lust and physical boundaries, so have many others I know. Are we doomed to unhappy marriages?

There are so many things I want to say in response.  Here are three of those things:

1. The greatness of sin. I’ve noticed that people either talk about sin in specific terms or general ones.

The folks who speak in exact terms are usually clarifying what they haven’t done; adding the specific details actually helps them look better.

The ones who speak vaguely are usually the ones who have crossed all the lines.  They aren’t going to be helped by getting into the details; speaking in general terms will make it sound like it’s not that bad.

Question of the week: when is sexual desire sin?

Earlier this week I shared a blog post on the hot topic of lust.  It prompted a bunch of really great questions so I’ll tackle one here today.

How do we navigate the line between healthy sexual desire and sin?

Here’s what I think:

  1. It’s okay to desire good things (like sex).
  2. A good thing becomes sin when we elevate it above God.
  3. We must seek to redeem good things, not destroy them.
It’s okay to desire good things.

A couple of years back one of my close married friends was desperately longing for God to give her a child.

At the same time, I was longing to have the physical intimacy that comes with marriage.

My friend and I both desired good things.  Both sex and babies are good things, made by God for His glory.

It’s not our desires that were wrong, it was when we ‘followed’ those desires instead of God’s word that we wandered into a dangerous spot.

A good thing becomes sin when we elevate it above God.

“Each man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.” – James 1:14-15.

Sin is what happens when you let your desires tell you what to do.

4 ways to respond to a friend struggling with lust

If you missed yesterday’s news, here’s a quick re-cap:

  • There are women who struggle with lust
  • It’s really hard for a lot of women to talk openly about that fight
  • We can be a part of changing that

If you, like me, want to be a part of creating a culture where we can encourage one another to share our struggles, here are four things to keep in mind when responding to friends.

1.       Acknowledging the struggle, don’t belittle it. 

What does it look like to belittle their struggle? “I’m sure that’s tough.  But your  struggle is so different from the way men struggle with lust.  Their struggle is really hard.” “I’m sure it’s not that bad!  At least you haven’t acted on your desires!”  “Don’t beat yourself up! At least it didn’t go too far!”

Believe your friend when they tell you they are struggling with sexual sin.  Don’t try to convince them the struggle isn’t that bad.  Believe it is a dangerous and deadly fight.

Big news: women struggle with lust.

Every where I turn I hear language that implies or outright states that lust is uniquely a male struggle.

It’s in our conversations.  I’ve had more than one woman walk me through the differences with men and women by explaining to me that men struggle with physical desires while women struggle with emotionalism.

It’s in our sermons, when the pastor uses the ‘men stop looking at pornography’, ‘women stop watching romantic movies’ illustrations.  Do I think men should stop looking at pornography? Yes.  Do I think women should fight their emotional and mental day dreaming?  Yes.

I also think that having our church culture peppered with the implication that lust is a uniquely male struggle is a pretty successful way to get women who struggle with lust to feel like they are made wrong.

I want women to have illustrations that make sense to them.  I want to challenge those who struggle with emotional sin to fight it the same way they challenge men to fight pornography.  I want women to stop laughing about their sins of approval or anxiety or coveting and start begging God to let them feel the weight of the horror of those offences.

I also want us to stop pretending that sexual sin isn’t a very real issue for women.