When You’re Not Sure You Want to be (Sexually) Whole

Jesus asked a question we may sometimes think strange. He asked the man who had been lame for 38 years, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6) Your first thought may be, “Why would Jesus ask such a silly question?” But think in terms of your own stuff, perhaps especially your sexual stuff. Do you want to be sexually whole? Do you really want your “intimacy gone wrong” to be healed?

Anita wasn’t so sure. Her marriage had become toxic, and her PTSD gave her a reason to say NO to any more traumatic sex from her husband. “I feel like I need my trauma,” she said. Her brain imagined that if she became healed she’s be left without an “excuse” and “have to” again subject herself to the demeaning acts and attitudes she’d been hurt by for so many years.

Randy said he wanted it, and wanted it now. He’d been hooked on porn for years and had begged and pleaded with God to take his sex drive away. The images in his head, the urge to act out sexually, and the resulting shame and guilt seemed to be swallowing him alive. He’d fasted and prayed, and asked others to pray for him. He longed for the temptation to be gone. But when challenged with the hard work of building a new lifestyle of sexual wholeness, he balked.

You may be struggling with what healing for your “intimacy gone wrong” might mean. Do you really want it? Just asking the question can feel unchristian. You might feel guilty for not wanting a life controlled by another’s demands (either spouse or God), struggling under shame, or constant white-knuckling it. The prospect of sharing your story with another might seem simply impossible. Is it really worth it?

Wrestling with whether you really want to be sexually whole is an important step. But nothing more will happen until you make the choice.

Not Primarily About Behavior

Words matter. Phrases such as sexual integrity, sexual healing, or sexual wholeness have different flavors that are all important, and I’ve used all those phrases at various times. But one thing that’s super important is that this is about more than behavior. We’re talking about much more than whether or not you sleep around, cheat on your spouse, or watch porn. Dealing with your sexual story will highlight ways in which you’ve been sexually harmed, but this is also about more than getting past your PTSD or other results of that harm. If you’re married, it’s about much more than how often you have sex with your spouse.

Your brain may put up a lot of resistance if you imagine healing for whatever brand of “intimacy gone wrong” you’ve experienced to be primarily about doing or not doing certain behaviors. If God offered to “zap” you from here to there, you might take it. But you’ve probably “tried harder” for far too long to truly believe in such an instantaneous “healing.” Occasionally God works “instantly,” but His usual way of working is to take you through a process. So you may look at the road ahead and feel discouraged, hopeless, even depressed. It all seems too hard, too long, too unsure. And will you put in all the effort and “fail” again?

Behaviors are important; they do have consequences. But one reason “healing” is such an important way of looking at this is because that idea gets to matters of the heart. It gets at things like pain, desire, connection, and yes, intimacy. As author, speaker, and therapist Jay Stringer says, we too often devolve into lust management, and that doesn’t work. I’ve talked with many people, especially men, who have successfully stopped acting out sexually, but their heart is still closed, empty, isolated. That’s not healing.

What Are You Saying YES To?

Wouldn’t it be glorious to feel free?

As a physician I’ve often talked with patients about healing. After an illness, injury, or surgery there’s always a process of healing. It’s that way with your “intimacy gone wrong” also. Healing is not something you can manufacture by putting in more effort. Neither is it something that primarily happens to you. It’s a process you choose to enter into and participate in.

In this sense healing is not unlike food. God makes an infinite variety of food available, but He doesn’t hand you a sandwich, catch and bake the fish for you, or drip IV nourishment into your veins. You and I are responsible for knowing when we’re hungry and finding and preparing appropriate food. Some tastes better than others, and some is easier to prepare than others.

But most important, to become nourished you actually have to eat the food – take it into your being.

God makes healing available too. You don’t manufacture healing on your own; you can’t. But you are responsible for choosing it, saying Yes to it, and actually taking it into your being.

How do you do that?

This is always a process, but a few things this includes:

  • Realize you need healing. Sometimes this requires hearing reflection from others that you’re not OK, that you need transformation.
  • Quit running away. You refuse to hide any longer. You commit to dealing with everything that needs to be dealt with.
  • Connect with others. Deeply connecting with others is, for many, the hardest part of this journey, but you won’t become whole without doing so.
  • Connect with God. This isn’t a list of religious behaviors; it’s a deep and secure soul attachment with Him that changes you.

It’s OK if you’re not sure you want to be made whole. And all of these parts of the process take time. God is patient. But the invitation stands. You can say YES to the next step in this process of transformation.

Your Turn: Are you ambivalent about wanting healing for “intimacy gone wrong?” Do you want to be sexually whole? Where are you feeling reluctant? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Want More? In the podcast this week, Mary Ann Otley talks about the choice she had to make to embrace healing after a history of traumatic sexual abuse.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • Are you sure you want to be sexually whole? Do you want your “intimacy gone wrong” to be healed? Like choosing to take food into your body for nourishment, you can choose to take healing into your soul. Tweet that.

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