Sex, Shame & Identity

My good friend, Makeda, has written this post. It’s brilliant. It’s raw. It’s real.

She doesn’t have the nerve to post it on her own sites because, let’s be honest, Christians in our own circles are often the worst of uninvited judges. So, here she is today.

I think she’s brave. If all of us were more honest and candid as she is here, maybe the church wouldn’t be as hated by the world as it is. Just a thought.

Without further adieu… Makeda…

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“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”

A few weeks ago several blogs that I follow started writing about sex and purity in the church culture. It was random that so many of them were writing on this topic and it caught my attention. It has since turned into a very intentional conversation about how the church has historically handled the issues of sex and purity. You can go here to see a list of the blogs that are participating in this conversation. This post is not intended to add my voice to that conversation but rather to share the space I am in as God is working to redeem sex and sexuality for me.

I have a very skewed view of sex. I was not one of the girls who waited until marriage to have sex. There is a lot of shame for me around this issue. I grew up in a church culture that taught me I was supposed to wait and if I didn’t wait then I was a bad girl (who, by the way, was going straight to hell). I was a rule follower and a perfectionist as a child. I wanted other people to like me and I knew that if I was perfect, I could always guarantee they would love me. For this reason, among others, maintaining my good girl image was very important to me. So when I started wrestling with sexuality as a teenager, I didn’t talk to anyone; not that there was anyone to talk to but still I had no place to go to process any of this out loud. And when I eventually started having sex, I wore the bad girl label like a second layer of skin. It was my identity and I have stayed in that place of believing myself to be the unlovable bad girl.

I am 40 years old and still single. On really bad days, I believe my singleness is punishment for having sex before marriage. On the not so bad days I tell myself that I don’t really want to be married because deep down, I believe that no one will ever want the bad girl. It is the most consistent lie that the enemy has whispered in my heart over the years and the one I keep believing despite KNOWING it is a lie.

But with each blog post I read, I hear an echo of the Father inviting me into a story of redemption for this area of my life. I read Isaiah 41 a few days after stumbling on all these posts and verse 14 jumped out at me like never before

“Despised though you are, O Israel, don’t be afraid, for I will help you. I am the Lord, YOUR REDEEMER. I am the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14 NLT. Emphasis added)

He is my redeemer and He wants to redeem every area of my life including this one. I read Romans 5 this morning and throughout the chapter I saw more echoes of His promise of redemption.

v. 1 “…we have been made right in God’s sight…”

v. 9 “…we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ.”

v. 10 “..we were restored to friendship with God”

v. 15 “And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gifts of forgiveness.”

v. 22 “…now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God…”

I feel the Father’s love in these words. I feel Him peeling off the layer of shame and rewriting my identity so I see myself as He sees me, loved so much I was worth dying for. I don’t fully believe it all yet but every day He draws me more and more to Himself. Putting the past and all my mistakes behind me and setting before me an invitation to step into this new story He is writing just for me. His love and His grace truly astound me and I am grateful beyond words.

Faithfulness

Faithfulness. That’s a word that has clarified itself more and more to me in the last 6 years.

From the lack of mine, to the recommitting of OURS, to the constantly constant of God’s. Faithfulness.

Last Friday, one of my closest friends called me to tell me her husband (also a very good friend) had been diagnosed with cancer. A mass, the size of a grapefruit/volleyball (seriously… that’s what her text said). How is this possible?

My friend, who just found out he has this mass the size of a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat, has been one of the most faithful men I know. He’s faithful to his wife, his children, his family, his friends, his church and God. FAITHFUL. When Brian and I were struggling thru my infidelity, these two were constant prayer warriors for us. She texted me often to let me know she was thinking of me and prayed every day and he CHOSE to stay neutral and not pick sides even though he was close to all parties involved. And not that there’s a “type” of person that “should” get cancer, because cancer does not discriminate and is an equal offender to all despite your race, gender or class… but if there was ever a person that wasn’t supposed to get cancer… HE would be this person.

On top of all this, my girlfriend has ALREADY lost her Mom (whom she was extremely close to) to a 12 year battle with cancer just a few years back. “Cancer” is an expletive in her family.

The other day, Brian said “We’re finally old enough to have bad things happen to us and our friends.” Think about it… for the longest time, it was our always our parents or grandparents friends who were divorcing, getting cancer, having affairs, losing a spouse, losing children… and now it’s us. We’ve graduated to SuckVille. It’s not something we want to graduate to… I’d love to stay in a place where none of my friends get sick and everyone lives happily ever after.

But going thru what we went thru ourselves… the journey HAS to include the pain. Without the pain, you can’t feel the relief and comfort. Or maybe you would, but would it really feel as sweet?

In my devotional time today, I was reminded of the One who in His own name is Faithful.

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.” ~Psalm 36:5

“His faithfulness continues through all generations.” ~Psalm 100:5

God is constant. He’s faithful. He’s proven Himself in history over and over… so what makes us think He’ll be different today?

Will you join me in praying for my friends? I know you may not know who they are… but they matter greatly to me.

 

Happy Valentine’s Month

From the Clayville’s heart to yours! Happy Valentine’s Month… even though I really don’t like Valentine’s Day.

Clayville's Heart

Hope you are all well. Know you’re loved. And if you’re interested… CLICK HERE to read my follow-up Moldova E-Newsletter Update.

I’ll be back to write here soon. Just getting caught up on work and jetlag.

Moldova: Day 5

I have been fortunate enough to get to serve in Moldova this week some really great friends. To make it even better, I’ve also gotten to be here in Eastern Europe with my amazing sister, Helen. Here’s a photo taken from our city tour today of the old Soviet Tanks. I’m not sure we were supposed to do that… but we did.

Old Soviet Tanks

Today, I asked her to guest post a snippet of her thoughts here in my corner of the interwebs… and she chose to talk about a couple of amazing men we’ve gotten the privilege to work alongside. Without further adieu… “I Need A Hero” by Helen Wong Taylor.

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Serge & Peter

Serge and Peter exude confidence. They are young, smart, funny, and good-looking. They are men’s men. And they spend their days modeling exemplary behavior to the youth of Moldova. Together, Serge and Peter teach at 19 of the 40 Russian public schools in Chisinau; they are positive male influences in a female-dominated educational system. Making small-talk with Serge three days ago, I asked him how long he had worked for Beginning of Life (BOL) as a prevention trainer. He responded, “Three years–it is good for me to do what I am passionate about.” Love that.

Three times a week, with the permission of the Ministry of Education, Serge and Peter go into schools to teach about domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual abuse, and other societal problems. More important than telling students what they shouldn’t do is modeling what they should do. Serge and Peter place equal emphasis on empowering students to respect themselves, respect each other, and work hard to pursue their dreams.

Serge

Their intentionality has made a huge impact.

Hopeless teens have realized that suicide is not the only option, girls have empowered their mothers to seek help in abusive situations, and boys are stating that their pride in life will come from being good husbands and fathers. This did not happen overnight. BOL has been in schools for over 10 years now. These youth look up to Serge and Peter–they are heroes.

What would our world look like if each person intentionally pursued something for God’s Kingdom for 10 years or more? This world needs heroes…

Will you be one?

The Girl Effect

Moldova: Day 4

What a busy week it’s been.

My brain has not stopped to rest. My heart feels as if it’s about to break into a million pieces. And my body just wants to do MORE. I want to help MORE. All of us feel this way. My friends/teammates are all responding differently:

Prudence is having dreams in Russian, which is interesting since she doesn’t speak it.
Alise keeps crying out of love, anger and empathy, which just makes me love her more.
Makeda is making up stories about addictions she doesn’t have.
Michelle keeps beating me up to prove a point… and I love it.
I want to collect all these babies and their Mama’s and just take them home with me.
Idelette carries more and more bags everyday and keeps buying fruit from vendors.

Prudy, Me & IdeletteAliseVladaIdelette

Self-Defense Lesson
That was right before Michelle took me down. :)

This evening, we spent some time in the Youth Center talking to teenagers. Maria talked about the hiring process for employees in the US. The kids are brilliant. They had some really great questions, and honestly… if I had a business and they were legally papered to work in the US, I would be the first to hire them.

One of the girls who was asking the most questions was sitting right next to me.

AnastasiaMeet Anastasia. She’s 21 and studying at the University. Isn’t she beautiful?

Her English is better than some Americans and her questions were filled with intelligence and hope. Then she said something that made my heart sink:

“I’m not so smart… but if I stay at a job and work hard, could I get an increase in pay?”

Not so smart??? This girl is BRILLIANT! You could see it in her eyes and in how she listened. But how could I say anything? I didn’t even know her.

In that moment, I prayed:

“Lord, speak Your truth into her heart. God whisper who You’ve created her to be into her ear and let it travel to her heart to stay. Block the lies of the world that have hurt her, and change her for Your glory. Let her know she matters. Help her believe!”

After the program, she turned towards me and we started chatting. She shared a little of her story and we talked about working hard for what you want but staying balanced. After a bit, she asked me a something along the lines of: “How do you stay balanced? I get home from school and work and I just feel empty!” I’m sure I said something brilliant (of course), but the only thing I remember specifically was that I thought she should write. Like how I blog, she should write and allow her feelings, ideas and discoveries to be spilled out onto the page. She seemed to cling to that idea.

In conversation

Photo by PrudyChick

Then I said: “Anastasia… when you said you were not so smart… you know, that’s absolutely NOT true. In talking to you and watching you, you are SO intelligent, smart and beautiful! You can’t say things like that to yourself.” She agreed and said, “I won’t say it again!” As we continued talking, I thanked God for that moment and hoped she heard the truth about herself.

As she asked more about why I blogged, I began to share Brian’s and my story of Restoration. Never did I see any judgment in her eyes. Just understanding. We are not who we were yesterday when we choose who we are tomorrow. We continued chatting, and the crowd around us grew. Before we knew it, the rest of my team was talking to Anastasia. 10 women, pouring into 1. Then she said something profound:

“I am going to change the world. I think that we are something special. We are not our parents. We will do something better!”

We found out later that 3 years ago, she was a very different girl. We weren’t told any details, only that she went thru a very dark and sad time… and that it’s a miracle she’s alive and here with us today.

Alise cried. Prudy commented that my words may not have come at a better time. I felt amazed. Honestly, just humbled that I got the opportunity to meet such a bright and wonderful young woman. I’m glad she wasn’t taken from this world 3 years ago because she blessed me tonight by letting me remember God’s grace for what it is… AMAZINGLY MIRACULOUS.

And today, He is just as real as He’s ever been. God is still in the business of miracles, and I believe we’re watching one in the works.

Anastasia’s gonna change the world, folks. The truth is… we ALL can. One day at a time, one choice at a time. I’m truly humbled and privileged to know her.

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