17 years of marriage, and this is all we’ve got

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Welp. That was a fast 17 years!

In the last several years, both of us have written various pieces on marriage, relationships, and sex, and we wanted to take the opportunity here, at the inauspicious 17-year point, to share them with you. Our hope and prayer is that you would find marriage to be the great signpost to Christ that it really is. (We hope you find it really fun, too.)

all for ONE,
Jonathan & Elizabeth

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Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)

The Purpose of Marriage is NOT to Make You Holy 

What I want to teach my daughters about married sex

When Ministry and Marriage Collide

A Marriage Blessing

Love Interruptus

3 Ways to Care for Heart of Your Wife

Intensity and Intentionality (a note about motherhood and marriage on the field)

Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)

Paul, the Misogynist?

Weaker But Equal: How I Finally Made Peace With Peter

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Top photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash. Used with permission.

I was sexually abused. Here’s what I want all parents to do if their child tells them that they were abused too.

by Jonathan

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I thought I had AIDS.

I thought I was going to die.

That’s why I told my dad about the abuse. That’s why I crawled out of bed late one evening, approached him as he was paying bills with a check-book in the kitchen, and spilled my guts.

I told him I had done terrible things. I told him I was a horrible sinner. I told him I wasn’t a virgin.

It was the late ’80s, and all I knew was that people who did bad things got AIDS. I had done bad things, therefore, I had AIDS and was going to die.

Perhaps that sounds ludicrous, but that’s how my kid-brain interpreted the data, and that’s why I told my dad.

What my dad did next is what he should have done. It’s what any parent should do when a child says they’ve been abused. It’s what any church leader should do when someone says they’ve been abused. But terribly, it’s not what many parents and leaders actually do.

He believed me.

That’s it. That’s the main thing: Believe your child.

 

Innocent until proven guilty
As an attorney, I’m tremendously thankful for our legal system. It’s got issues, for sure, but the general principal that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty is absolute bedrock. It’s vital to the just operation of a courtroom.

But we’re not talking about courtrooms.

We’re talking about living rooms and bedrooms and kitchens. And in those places, you should always, always, always start off believing your child. Or friend. Or parishioner.

Somehow we’ve got this false idea that false accusations are the norm. They are not. Allegations that turn out to be fabricated do happen, and we should be aware of the possibility, but our default should be to believe the person who’s talking about being abused.

Because sexual abuse is far more common than made-up stories about sexual abuse.

Now, believing the child in front of you does not mean you automatically believe the accused is guilty. I’m not saying you jump to conclusions and throw the accused under the bus. I’m just saying that you have to start off listening and hearing and giving space to the person in front of you. Start off believing.

 

Know that it’s often unbelievable
Sexual abuse often happens in the context of a known relationship. You and the child will likely know the abuser, and that is typical. For me, it was a neighbor, and the majority of the abuse happened in my house.

You will probably know the abuser. You might even be related to the abuser, and again, that’s what will make the allegation so unbelievable.

If your child tells you about being abused, it will certainly be something you don’t want to hear about, and the thing is, it will likely involve someone you don’t want to think about. But listen to me, please. Don’t rush to defend the accused. Rush to hear the child.

I’ve heard enough stories from teenagers and clients and patients to say, with all the fire in my bones: if your child tells you about being sexually abused by someone you don’t want to think could do it, BELIEVE YOUR CHILD.

My dad believed me. He told me I wasn’t going to die. He told me I hadn’t done anything wrong. He hugged me.

And honestly, I don’t remember what happened next. I don’t know if they talked to the neighbors. I know I didn’t see that neighbor anymore. I wish I could ask my parents what that was like. What did they think? What did they feel? Unfortunately, that conversation will never happen; both of my parents died many years ago.

I don’t remember many of the facts. But I do remember the feelings.

I felt loved.

I felt heard.

I felt protected.

I felt valued.

I did not feel silenced.

My dad was not incredulous or doubtful or skeptical. He started off believing me, and he kept on believing me.

He hugged me.

And that’s exactly what I needed.

Two Things We Need to Teach Our Kids About Sex

by Elizabeth

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This spring Jonathan and I participated in a panel discussion on issues of sexuality and parenting. During the course of our conversation I verbalized two things I think are important when it comes to talking about sex with our children. First, from very early on we need to be cultivating a mistrust of friends’ information. And second, virginity is not the point: purity is.

Long before we ever thought about talking about sex with our children, we encouraged them to come to us with the things their friends told them. Then we could tell them if their friends were giving accurate information — or not. We happen to be a very talkative family (you probably can’t imagine that, can you??), and our children report back to us with gusto.

The things they tell us their friends said are, almost without exception, incorrect. By now it’s almost a family joke. We started this approach early and are hoping it continues into the teen and young adult years. We’ve now started telling our older kids that when it comes to sex, their friends will most likely not be correct. They appear to believe us because this has been the case for so many other topics over the years.

One more thing about the friendship issue: we need to include Google as one of these untrustworthy “friends.” There are a couple reasons for this. The internet may very well give scientifically or Biblically accurate information — but not necessarily. And young people have difficulty discerning reputable sources on the internet. Additionally, finding porn during a Google search is literally 1 second away. {I know this because it happened to me. Ew.} The internet is not our friend when it comes to sex education.

Cultivating a mistrust of friends’ information is something we can do from very early ages, before we begin talking about sex or even begin thinking about talking about sex. But when we do begin talking about sex, we need to start steering the conversation away from virginity — which has been a traditional way of talking about sex and marriage — and direct it towards purity.

Virginity refers to an event. Its loss might be a past event or a future event, but it is still a one-time occurrence. Purity, on the other hand, is a state of living and a state of being. No matter what our past is, because of Jesus, purity is possible in the present and in the future.

Purity is what Paul means when he tells us to press on. Purity is what Jesus means when He tells the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. Virginity will fail us, but purity is always available.

Our virginity status isn’t a pre-requisite for marriage. God cares more that we are currently living in purity than whether we enter marriage a virgin. (Of course, if you’re a virgin, that means God wants you to remain so until marriage.) But if sexual immortality has been confessed, repented of, and forgiven, those specific sins don’t matter anymore. We — and our children — are clean now.

So let’s not talk about virginity, other than to define what it is. Instead let’s teach our children to walk in the way of purity and commit to walking in that way ourselves.

 

In the future I’d like to address various questions about sex and relationships that I’ve received from teenagers over the years. So stay tuned.

What I Want to Teach My Daughters About Married Sex {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today talking about something we don’t talk about very much: sex.

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I’ve been married for 16 years now. While that’s not as long as some of you — and certainly not as long as my husband’s grandparents’ 70 years (!) — it’s still long enough to have seen and heard a lot of marriage advice.

And you know what? Some of that advice makes me cringe. So I can tell you up front: I’m not going to advise you to make sure to meet your husband’s needs by having lots of sex with him. And I’m not going to tell you that the purpose of marriage is to make you holy. (It isn’t.)

What I do want to talk about is walking in sexual wholeness.

How can I possibly talk about a topic as big and complex as human sexuality in a single blog post? While I can’t offer the comprehensiveness or the nuance that a book or a therapist can offer, I’ll give you my basic framework.

These are the things I want to teach my daughters someday: what the foundation for healthy married sexuality is, potential obstacles in the bedroom and what to do about them, and potential temptations outside of marriage and what to do about them.

Read Elizabeth’s 3 points here, as well as her first comment which offers some additional resources.