Approaching Grace in Red High Heels
There is hardly a more abused or battered word than friendship. In our culture, the term is thrown around so lightly it has come to carry little meaning.
Effort is minimal, drama is rampant, and tense and broken feelings abound.
As a result, it is difficult to know what to expect from the relationships I have from the women around me. Are deep, rewarding friendships even possible?
What should it look like? What is a friend?
Many women measure the depth of their relationship with another by how gratified the other friend makes them feel.
We live in a world where women compete with each other. Often, our initial response to meeting a new friend is to “size them up” and compare their strengths with ours and determine whether they pose a threat or not.
If they make us acutely aware of our insecurities, we hold them at an arm’s length.
If they cater to our vulnerabilities and make them seem not quite so bad, we buddy up with them.
Our friendships have become a matter of “what can I get from this other person?” instead of seeking out kindred spirits with a heart of love and a desire for good, old-fashioned companionship.
When selfish desires form the foundation of our dearest relationships, those same friendships turn into something toxic and unhealthy.
Last Sunday our pastor preached on a passage in 1 Corinthians that talked about sex. “You’re probably thinking, “This is going to be awkward to listen to,”” He said, then laughed. “If you think that’s awkward, try giving this sermon.”
Like my pastor’s sermon, writing this series can be hard. As I pray over each post, I sometimes argue with the Lord over the content. “That’s too transparent,” I will say. “I’d rather speak in generalities.” But the Lord consistently reminds me of my own self a few years ago, desperately trying to find answers from a biblical perspective but unable to find them in a world of safe, Christian generality.
God’s Word applies to the questions you are asking about sex. God designed sex, God provided His Word, and God has given us His Spirit to enlighten the Word and guide us into a life that honors Him. But God gives us great freedom within this context. I’m not going to add rules to God’s Word, but point you to the principles God has provided that guide us through questions about sexuality.
Is masturbation a sin?
If you struggle with this, my friend, you are not alone. I receive emails almost every day from girls guilty, ashamed, and terrified to talk to anyone about their struggles. For women, this issue bears a much greater stigma than for men. Because no one addresses this topic openly with women, they feel it is a sin of which they cannot speak – and because they cannot speak and don’t know where to look, they cannot get help from a biblically-based source. My heart is to reach girls like these with God’s hope and restoration.
But is masturbation really a sin?
Biologically, masturbation is simply a body’s response to stimulus. But because it involves our sexual design – which was meant for union with a man in marriage – it is also connected to our mind, emotions, and spirit. This is why masturbation often requires porn, erotica, or mental fantasy in addition to the physical action.
The plan had been given with strict instructions to meticulously craft every detail. The materials were of choice selection, imported from afar. The field of laborers was vast, totaling 70,000. The quarrying of stone required another 80,000. Still another 3,600 oversaw the work.
This would be no small undertaking.
With King Solomon at the helm, all worked together to create such splendor as had never been seen. After all, this was the Temple of the living God and nothing less would do. It had to be unmatched in magnificence.
Twenty-three tons of gold overlaid the walls. The beams, the nails, and the door sockets were made of gold—even the floor was overlaid with the precious metal. All of the priestly utensils were finely crafted before being overlaid with gold. Palm trees, chains, pomegranates, and cherubim decorated the walls, adding lavish marvel everywhere the eye could wander. Jewels graced the walls in elegant display.
Within the heart of the Temple hung a fine linen curtain lavishly decorated with blue, purple and scarlet thread. Here was found the most significant place on all the earth. The Holy of Holies. Beyond this curtain stood two cherubim. Together, their wingspan drew 30 feet of shelter above the Ark of the Covenant, dwelling below. The Holy of Holies.
Seven years of tireless effort brought the close of the building period. It was here. The moment all had been anxiously awaiting. In grand procession, the Ark was laid to rest beneath the cherubim. Dressed in fine priestly garments, the Levites stood to the east of the Temple. One hundred and twenty trumpeters accompanied cymbals and other instruments in magnificent unison. All lifted their voices in great praise unto the Lord.
“He is good! His faithful love endures forever!”
This was their song. Can you hear it?
Then, a thick cloud descended. A hush may have covered the crowd in silent awe and memorization.
The glory filled the Temple.
Settling. That’s what we call it. Why do smart, beautiful, Christian girls take the immediate rather than wait for someone worthy of them? I ask myself this question often. Maybe it’s the wanna-be-soccer-mom person that I am, but each time I see a girl settling for a guy who devalues her, I feel a parental pang of sadness. The truth is: I know exactly why they settle. I know why girls take the guy in front of them instead of waiting to see if something better is yet to come.
I know the motive because I’ve been there – and now I’m on the other side of the dating game. Married, my husband and I think of our younger selves and say: “If only you knew what God had in store.”
Two Ends of the Spectrum
I have seen two very unhealthy perspectives when it comes to dating and marriage: the first is an overemphasis on marriage as an end-all, achievement, or goal. It is the idea that life ‘begins’ when we marry.This mentality makes marriage an idol and man a god, removing our effectiveness as individual persons.
The second perspective is a complete distaste for marriage (often as a reaction to overemphasis), excessive independence and an attitude of ‘swearing off’ men or marriage in general. This mentality acts as if marriage is man’s idea, not God’s, and scorns God’s design for relationship. It is another form of idolatry: the idolatry of independence and self-discovery.
Neither is healthy, as is the case with most extremes.
In between these two we find women waffling between a desire to be desired and the drive to be individual. But that drive is tempered by a prick in the back of her mind that if – just if – the right man were to show up, would she be in a position to accept him into her life? Would her individual pursuits have alienated her prospects?
So before we delve into why we settle and why we shouldn’t be settling, here are a few thoughts:
It is not wrong to want to be desired.
It is not wrong to be independent, strong, and individualistic (in fact it is healthy).
We were created for companionship, but that companionship is for life.
We have to say ‘no’ to the lesser in order to say ‘yes’ to the best.
God-honoring relationships require absolute trust and unshakeable faith.
Want to be Wanted
Woman is beautiful and her body was designed in such a way to please the eye. Man was designed to be visual (in a perfect world, this visual nature would be dedicated to his wife alone). Though both men and women desire one another and need affirmation, a woman’s ‘want to be wanted’ creates in her a drive to please, to be valued, and to be affirmed that she is capable, beautiful, and acceptable for who she is.
“So…” I twiddled my thumbs on the edge of my latte. “What do we want our standards to be?”
Mr. M – my boyfriend then, husband now – set down his coffee and leaned on his elbows, earnest gray-green eyes looking into mine. “It’s not a matter of what we want, Phy,” He said, his voice level and serious. “It’s about what will glorify God.”
“That’s true.” I agreed. “But… what does that mean for us, like, practically?”
“Well, I think… I think it means we need to err on the side of purity. Like we know that as our love grows we will want to give more physically. So we need to set up safeguards for our standards.” He looked out the window.He glanced back and laid a hand on mine.
“In the Old Testament, the Jews took the Ten Commandments SO seriously they set up ‘safeguard laws’ to help them stay far from breaking God’s commands. So in order to preserve the Sabbath – they would cook the day before so they wouldn’t labor on God’s day. That’s what I mean. It may seem severe, but I don’t think we should kiss while we are dating. That should help us stay away from where kissing can lead – making out, getting handsy… and stuff.”
We set out confidently and happily for about two months before our standards were put to the test. It wasn’t long before we knew we wanted to get married, and as that realization dawned on us, the desire for one another grew. As our desires grew, the more difficult our standards seemed.
“I have to leave your apartment earlier, we have to be careful.” Mr. M said in frustration around our three-month anniversary.
I knew it too. There was something wrong. It wasn’t that the whole ‘not kissing thing’ was a pain – even though at times, it really was – but it was the sense that these standards were for our good, yet they seemed like such a burden. Our relationship seemed more focused on NOT going ‘too far’ (whatever that was) than on actually enjoying one another.
I had seen girls go through this and chuck their standards out the window when it got too hard, but I’d done that before and I was determined: never again. It wasn’t worth it, and I wanted something new and beautiful this time around. I didn’t want to give up on our standards, and neither did Mr. M. And deep down, I knew it wasn’t the standards that caused this struggle – it was something within our hearts.
This post is part of the series The Other Virgin Diaries. In this post I will not be dealing with situations involving an affair. If you are seeking answers in the midst of an affair, I recommend checking out The Time Warp Wife.
“I know God has forgiven him, and I have too… but will he think differently of me? Will I be beautiful enough?”
Her question was one I asked Mr. M before we got married. Many of you following the Other Virgin Diaries read my husband’s testimony in ‘Does God Forgive Sexual Sin?’, where he told his story of God’s grace and redemption over his own sexual past.
But as we approached our wedding day, I asked both my Mr. M and God: “Will that past affect our future?”
Men and women worldwide are fighting a constant sexual barrage. Their histories range from porn addictions to molestation to rape to promiscuity. The good news of God’s redemption has brought hope to ALL trapped in sexual sin and addiction – and that’s something to celebrate! But like any sin, the consequences still exist, and we have a choice when it comes to the aftermath.
My aforementioned post, “Does God Forgive Sexual Sin?” talks about the process by which God redeems us from our pasts and how to walk forward in freedom (if you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so before we delve into this post). But how do we, the spouse or significant other, walk with our man (or woman) into freedom? Will our own sexual past, or the past of our husband, dictate our future happiness? That’s what we are talking about today.