Thursday, July 6, 2006

Genesis to Exodus

The story of how a straight, married, mom of five ended up at an Exodus Conference.

Fear of the church drives the sexually broken underground and away from the God. I have come to believe that the church should be a safe place for the sexually broken to come for help and healing. While same sex attraction was not my own story, I believe mine is just as common, but possibly less known. I feel it is time for the church to pull its head out of the sand and engage Satan in this attack. I believe he has used the internet and current technology to further drive this issue underground and make it more easily accessible.

· Approximately 40 million people in the United States are sexually involved with the Internet
Exposing Porn: Science, Religion, and the New Addiction, Paul Strand. Christian Broadcasting Network, 2004.
· 72 million Internet users visit pornography web sites per year
Pornography Statistics 2003. Internet Filter Review. www.internetfilterreview.com, 2003.
· Sex is the number 1 topic searched on the Internet
Overdosing on Porn, Rebecca Hagelin. www.worldandi.com, March, 2004.
· 34 percent of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites online
Internet porn a guy thing? Not really, online rating service says, Mark O’Keefe. The Charlotte Observer.
· At least 20,000 American adults visit Internet sex sites at least 11 hours per week
Victims of Pornography Month Should Not Exist, Jan Larue. Christian Counseling Today, 2003 Vol. 11 No. 3.
· 15 percent of online porn habitu├ęs develop sexual behavior that disrupts their lives
The Porn Factor, Pamela Paul. www.time.com. 19 January, 2004.
· 9.3 million women access adult websites each month
Internet Pornography Statistics. Internet Filter Review, 2004.
· 70% of 18 to 24 year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography.
First-person: the culture of pornography, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Baptist Press, 28 December 2005.
· For every 10 men in church, 5 are struggling with pornography
The Call to Biblical Manhood. Man in the Mirror, 6 July, 2004.
· Median age for the first use of pornography: boys: 11-13 girls: 12-14
Your Children & Pornography: A guide for Parents, Tom Buford. Tommera Press, 2001.
· 47.78 percent of families said pornography is a problem in their home
Focus on the Family Poll, 1 October, 2003.
· One out of every six women grapples with addiction to pornography
Internet Pornography and Loneliness: An Association? Vincent Cyrus Yoder, Thomas B. Virden III, and Kiran Amin. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, Volume 12.1, 2005.
T
hese are just a few of the statistics on pornography listed at http://www.nationalcoalition.org/resourcesservices/stat.html. There are literally thousands of such statistics on many different sexual issues. I specifically highlighted the ones about women and churched men. There are also statistics available concerning pastors and porn/sex addictions “54 percent of pastors said they viewed porn within the past year in a Pastors.com survey…” says an article at http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/pastors/1336107.html.

Then there are the issues of homosexuality, sex addiction, and on top of all of that is the issues relating to teens. I learned at Exodus that it is a trend among teens to be bisexual until they figure out what they want and more specifically among young women to be Lesbian Until Graduation (L.U.G.). Yes, it even has a name.

My own story is not very different from those who I met and spoke with at Exodus. I worshipped my father as a little girl and thought I was a daddy’s girl, but when I was 10 he left us and by the time I was 16 had another family complete with a stepdaughter who was my age. To this day I have to deal with that rejection and the fact that she and her children have MY daddy! It angers me still and I have to continually forgive, even though I like them all. At 11, I was introduced to pornography when a friend and I stumbled over a family member’s stash. I remember yearning for the attention the women in the pictures were getting. Even though I was too young to really understand the sexual nature of it all, I DID understand the intimacy that it represented. Later, I became a promiscuous teen with a tendency for older, dominant men (which at times was dangerous). I just knew each guy was going to love me if I just gave him what he wanted. After a while, I became so numb to it all that I thought the only way I could be with a guy was to offer him sex. Beyond that I would lie to myself, and everyone around me, that I was the one pursuing, but each time left a hole in me. I rededicated my life to Christ at 22. It was about that time that I met my husband. We married and lived a perfectly Christian life until I was about 29. Shane was working 65-70 hours a week managing a restaurant AND going to school. I was home alone with 5 small children and VERY lonely. I don’t think I realize how unloved I felt. But when I discovered the internet, I quickly found the attention I craved. Someday I may share that story, but it's not time yet. It is really a beautiful story of God’s intervention involving an attempt to end my own life. (not quite suicide, but close)

That being said, I believe God has put me in a safe place by urging me to reach out to homosexuals. It’s not so safe that I can’t identify, but safe enough that on a regular basis, it will not be a struggle for me. Here’s how it came about.

My oldest daughter had this group of friends that she had been very close to since middle school. This group included one boy. They all had their suspicions about him and he did finally come out to them in their senior year. My daughter has stayed friends with him and through him has met, probably, every gay man in our city, and many in Nashville. She is 20 now and while they all know she is a Christian, they love her and flock to her. She prays for them and has such a love for them, but really is burdened with some of the things she has seen. For one thing, She has been very anti-church for the reason that she has seen how the church treats people (this was a common theme at Exodus). She has met young men who were thrown out of their homes, rejected by family and church, and forced into prostituting themselves or making gay porn films.

About the same time my daughter was sharing this with me, The End Of The Spear came out and there was a controversy among Christians about it concerning the lead actor being gay. I got an e-mail from our homeschool group calling for a boycott of this movie. I blew up. I threw an e-mail back at the group saying basically what hypocrites Christians are and that this was an amazing story that we should support so that more people could hear it. I mean this movie is about a modern day gospel! Men that gave their lives so others could live…I just couldn’t believe that Christians couldn’t even agree amongst themselves on that. I realized what I had done after the fact and fully expected that I had stirred up a hornets’ nest. Well, according to some I did, but God spared me from it. The only replies I received were all “you go, girl” except for one. The one caused me to dig deep into my Bible. I just could not find anything to support the “we need to stand up to those who are in our face” mentality. All I could find was that we are to love God, love others and share the gospel-that we would always have those that hate us, and that Jesus, when they were all up in his face, said nothing and went to the cross. God was working on me.

I wrote all of this in a small “book” of an e-mail to a man that I found in Nashville who had an Exodus affiliate ministry. I never expected him to write me back. I just felt better by putting it into words. He did write back with the words “call me, let’s talk”.

I didn’t want to at first. It was like wanting to go parachuting all your life and then when you have the opportunity, realizing that you’re afraid to. I didn’t know there was fear there until faced with it. I put it off for a couple of weeks and finally made the call. I met with the director from the Sight ministry and he told me his story. I felt that God wanted me to tell him mine. In doing so, He confirmed that He had brought us together. The director immediately got me involved.

At one of the meetings I went to I met a woman and started talking to her when the subject of the Exodus conference came up. She said, “you should go, they are awesome.” I didn’t think anything more about it. Then Richard sent an e-mail to everyone on his list about it. I still didn’t think anything about it. I never go to anything because there is no money and I have 5 kids. Out of the blue I got the idea that I SHOULD go. I didn't even know why, but I now know where the idea came from now. I mentioned it to an older, well-respected woman at church and told her that I would have to do fundraising in order to go cause it was expensive. Then I prayed during church, “God if you want me to go, you are going to have to tell me and provide the money. I absolutely don’t have it.” After church, that lady came up to me and said if I went, she would give me $100 toward it.

Okay, God.

I put out flyers that I was raising money for this and would do photo shoots for it. I got calls immediately.

Okay, God.

I applied for a scholarship leaving the amount requested blank. I didn’t know how much I would get for fundraising and I prayed that God would just provide what I needed. They approved me for $250-just enough for what was left.

Okay God.

When I got there I realized that I had more resources I wanted to buy than I had funds for. I mentioned it to my mom over the phone. She said she wanted to put $50 in my account for them. I never asked her to, nor did I intend for her to.

Over and over again, God has confirmed that this was the direction I was to go. I questioned this after the church “change” was proposed. It left me unsure as to where God was going with this. The next day, I received a call for another photo shoot, when I hadn’t put out any more flyers for over a week.

So this is where I am now: I believe God wants my church to be proactive in this area, beginning with homosexuals and moving later on into other areas of sexual brokenness as people who are healthy enough to deal with them come on board. I feel it is URGENT that we begin to address this with the youth because that’s where it begins. They are taking this path younger and younger-nevermind that they aren’t even supposed to be thinking about sex yet, they not only have to deal with whether or not they should have sex, but now struggle with which sex they are going to be attracted to. It’s not even so much an issue to them whether or not they should have sex anymore. Can you imagine what a burden that is to a young person-especially one who has been in church and knows the truth, but has these feelings the world is telling them not to deny?

We also need to quickly deal with the fact that the church is God’s plan for healing. It should be the FIRST place one would turn to for healing and support. Specifically, parents of homosexuals should never feel they have to hide their pain from church family. So often the church’s stance on the issue leaves them feeling shame and afraid to share their burden. These families should be surrounded by friends and family willing to lift them up in prayer- who care so much about their children that they will ask about them and pray for them continuously.

Ministries like the Sight ministry (that I am involved with) are in place to teach and counsel homosexuals. I believe support of this ministry would be a beneficial tie to the homosexual community as well as a reference for those who need counsel. People coming out of the lifestyle need safe churches to be plugged into, families to include them and make them feel a part of the church, and straight individuals who volunteer and receive training to hold them accountable and affirm their gender. But since they also need knowledgeable people to teach them how to deal with what they are going through, which is where we refer the ones who aren’t already plugged into a counseling group to the Sight Ministry.

We should cultivate small groups should not only include them, but actively pursue their participation. I believe that there should be a leadership, that is directly accountable to the pastors who can keep watch over the accountability program and keep it safe. If problems arise between a struggler and an accountability volunteer, the leadership would be the ones to address the issue and make necessary changes.

I feel that there should be some means in place to require a commitment from the struggler so they understand that though they are always welcome at church, the only way we can help them heal, is if they are willing to commit and work at it.

And ultimately, what should become the foundation of this ministry, we should offer education, either through videos, guest speakers, and studies beginning with young parents. I learned at Exodus that many of the reasons a person becomes homosexual CAN be averted through education. In fact, there are many that go so far as to believe that the majority of homosexuality is preventable! In order to do so, parents need to be taught about the stages of development and their participation in those stages, from birth.

The first things I would like to see my church do is to prepare the church on this issue and how to address it, and become a member of the Exodus Church Network. This requires a $50 annual membership fee, a contact person who has been free from sexual immorality for 3 years, and a leadership board.

I have brought back page after page of notes, handouts, videos and CD’s of information. I intend to share this information with my own church. At Exodus, they expressed a desire to “come home”. The ex-homosexual community has, in the past, avoided church like a plague, but has come to see that the church was God’s original plan to affect healing. This is why the Exodus Church Network was launched this weekend and why I believe God put this on my heart to begin with. This is a HUGE issue. It has been ignored or had scripture thrown at it like stones, but rarely is Jesus used to address it. The kingdom of God is not expanded through judgment and rejection.

I wondered why God had put this on my heart only to rearrange my church. I wasn’t sure what God wanted to do with my going to Exodus and the church change, but I am trusting Him and He told me to go and bring what I learned back to my pastor. Beyond that I am resting on faith that God will continue to direct my path as He already has. With the heavy burden I have been carrying over the last few months, it is my hope that they will allow me to do something within the church to move us in this direction. While I do have a vision for this, I don’t really know how God wants to carry it out. In other words, I carry this on my heart, I have a vision, I am willing, I lack direction but I’m offering whatever I have and can do. I understand my place in this-which may be nothing. God may have had me do all of this just to bring it home to them.