Tag Archives: guilt

“Jesus Loves You More Than a Man Ever Could” – On Guilt & Falling in Love

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I was listening to a love song. A person came to mind (or maybe to heart) when I heard it. And I immediately felt guilty.

back at the pianoI grew up in a culture that told teenagers their romantic feelings and desires were something they needed to get rid of. And if they couldn’t shake those feelings and desires no matter how hard they tried, they had to direct them toward Jesus instead.

“Jesus loves you more than a man ever could,” I was told innumerable times. And when I’d have a crush and it just wouldn’t go away, I would reprimand myself for not letting Jesus be enough for me. I loved Him so deeply. But I didn’t have confidence that He was satisfied with me; I believed He was demanding I love Him more and love Him differently. I didn’t believe my genuine love was enough for Him.

When I was told Jesus loved me more than another person could, the application was always: “So you better give Him credit for that.”

Back in October, when I heard that love song, I felt guilty. Because I wanted to sing it about a person, and what’s left of teenage Tessa immediately pointed an accusing finger and told me I couldn’t. I had to sing it to Jesus, or I shouldn’t be singing it.

But then I heard the whisper:

“What if I sang it to you?”

A bit of all of it happened. And He healed something in me that day.

Jesus loves me. More than anyone else ever could. But instead of the response to that truth being guilt, He wants something different.

When He sang that love song to me, He wasn’t shaming me for any lack on my part (and He certainly wasn’t angry at me for having feelings toward a person). He helped me understand by using a song I could relate to: the way I felt for that person? It resembled how He felt about me. And the response He wanted– the response it naturally elicited from me– was not guilt or forced praise.

It was awe.

I had so much in me for that person; it swept me up just to be in possession of it. They didn’t have to do anything to maintain it. It was something living in me, for them. I loved them because of who they were, not because of anything they felt (or, more accurately, didn’t feel) toward me. It was overwhelming in a beautiful way. And finally it was beginning to connect– God goes through that concerning me?

I am a wildly imperfect person, yet I am able to love in measures like these. Why have I believed that God who is Love… would do less?

It would take more time for me to unpack these things. I’m still in the process; He’s still teaching me how to let Him love me. But I wrote in my journal that night, after the song ended:

“Maybe the whole reason we fall in love is so that we can grasp Him better.”

[Listen]

Choosing Love

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This is going to be hard.

I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I’ve told you a lot of my story; I even have a tab above for that exact purpose. But. . . you don’t know everything. My stomach feels constricted right now; I am so nervous and afraid to tell you. I’m terrified that you won’t see me as I am anymore, that you’ll just think of my past every time you read my words or even look at me. I pray so fervently that you will still see ME. But I feel like I have to share this. I’m going to. Ready? When I was a little girl, I made a friend, and her influence led me to masturbation. Even after my friendship with her ended, my addiction did not; I would fall back into it one or two times every year.

Firstly, can I back up a little and say something to those of you thinking, “But masturbation isn’t bad!”? Even before I knew what I was doing had a name or was ever done by anyone else, I knew it was wrong; it was sinful, it was harmful, it was disgusting. I knew when I was in grade school and no one had to tell me; my conscience did. It is not something Jesus wants us to do. There is no question about it.

This is so hard to tell you, but I’ll keep going.

Jesus has freed me from the chains of masturbation. It took so long, and if I’m being honest I know I could relapse within minutes. But I haven’t, because He has made me strong. He has protected me. But a few weeks ago, when I was working on a piece of writing, I realized I might want to illustrate something I’d been talking about with a photo. A quick internet search. . . an accidental porn photo before my eyes. I could have clicked away. All I had to do was close the window and leave. I had a choice.

I tearfully admit that I chose against Him.

I followed the picture to its website. It was only a minute, but that minute haunts me every day. The fact that I heard Him. I heard Him! He was SCREAMING! He was crying and begging me to stop. But for a minute, I ignored His pleas. I rejected His protection. And the fact that I did that hurts me more than the porn did.

After that minute of wide-eyed, short-of-breath trembling, I closed the window, subconsciously put on a worship song, and begged in one-word prayers: “Help.” I couldn’t feel anything but disgust for myself. I don’t know how long I spent sitting there, shaking, wrapped in a blanket, images flashing in and out to renew my shame over and over. But after that period of time, I opened my Bible. I craved His words, no matter what they might be, because I knew I desperately needed Him; He was the only one who could save me. I expected to hear fierce reprimands–

But He said nothing about it. Not one thing. My dear friends, He didn’t even allude to it.

taken for the 5:19 Photo Project, 2013Oh, He spoke. He said a lot of things. But not one thing had even a hint of “I warned you” or “you failed” or “you are disgusting.” He told me that He had given me His righteousness; that He was going to teach me how to guard my mind; that I could move forward. If that isn’t mercy, I can’t imagine what else mercy could be. This is such a hard thing to write and I keep wrestling with myself about sharing any of it with you. But. . . what if you need this? That’s what makes me consider it. That’s why I’m still typing.

I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggles, no matter what they are. I want you to know that freedom is possible, within reach for you. I want you to know that Jesus is screaming your name, just like He was screaming mine on that day. He is not ashamed of you; He is crying out for you.

If you feel alone in what you’re facing: analyze those around you. Prayerfully consider someone, not just anyone but someone whose reactions you have admired. So many reactions are possible and I am painfully aware of that. I know people who, when I’ve shared my heart with them, have asked if I was crazy, tried to fix me, or seemed nonchalant about a serious issue. But there are special people whom God has gifted with graceful reactions– genuine prayer, brokenness, sometimes even the rare-but-incredible, “Me, too!” These are people you can go to. Find one of them and pray for an opportunity to tell them about your secret, even if it’s something that no longer holds you. If you still feel like you can’t tell anyone, maybe you haven’t completely faced it. Not everyone needs to know; this is for you, not anyone else. But being able to talk about it is an irreplaceable aspect of healing. If they share your struggle or if they “simply” walk with you as you face it, you have the invaluable comfort of not being alone. I was over-the-top blessed to have my person respond with a “me, too”; I don’t think I will ever be able to feel like no one understands now, because God has given me someone who does.

If you feel as if you will never be free from your addiction: I have a story for you.

Maybe a week after I found porn and received mercy, I had a dream: I was with a slightly younger friend of mine (in reality I don’t know who she was). We were walking on the sidewalk just before the long driveway to her house, and she was telling me that her boyfriend was coming that day, that I could meet him. But I already had a bad opinion of him based on what I gathered from stories she had told me; he sounded manipulative and like he was dating her only because she was rich and beautiful. I walked just a few steps ahead of her and soon heard honking behind us from the road. My friend said, “It’s him!”, but I acted as if I hadn’t heard her and started to hurriedly walk into her driveway. She continued to call my name and he honked a few more times. I heard him begin to pull into the driveway as I still rushed ahead, and when he saw me, he shouted, “I want to meet the girl with the sexy legs.” I was shocked and disgusted– yet secretly pleased with the compliment. Then I woke up.

I tried to fall back asleep and see what happened next (I’m a story-lover), but I couldn’t. By the end of the day, I realized what the dream had meant: Jesus wanted me to chose an ending in my actual life.

I see other people reveling in sin and it is so clearly wrong to me, yet in my own life I still am pleased by it. It’s suave and has an alluring voice; it compliments to get what it wants. But I CAN CHOOSE. I can choose to entertain sin because it’s lies are flattering and make me feel good, or I can ignore it’s words, knowing that what I’ve seen it do is contrary, and try to woo the people I care about from it. When I found that porn, I chose lust. But the next day? I chose love. I chose to spend time with Jesus, at His feet, listening to His wisdom about how I could move forward and guard my mind. And that choice was right, even when choices that looked a lot easier were in front of me. Since then, I’ve chosen love and I’ve chosen lust, but that’s what I want to stress to you most of all: IT IS A CHOICE.

I know what addiction is like, that it makes you feel trapped in it. But I also know that every time I gave in to my addiction, I was choosing it. I wanted to do what I was doing. Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14). Maybe it’s different for you. I don’t know; I don’t want to make assumptions about you, and I am fully, one hundred percent aware that addiction runs deep and we almost always need to get help for it. There is no shame in getting help and I hope you know that; it is a deeply brave thing to seek help and I recommend that you do. But I also hope you know how much power you have, that your choices make a difference. Our choices strengthen or weaken our addictions. We can take that and let it fill us with guilt, but we have another option: we can realize that the power to change is in us! If Jesus is in us, we have His righteousness in us. He can help us, we can choose to listen to Him!

If you are struggling with any addiction, but masturbation in particular: my dear, dear friend, the only reason I’ve decided to share this is that you might need it. You need to know. You need to know that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what still haunts you sometimes, no matter what you may be stuck in now,  YOU ARE LOVED. You are loved, you are clean, you are free, and Jesus is not ashamed to love you or interact with you. He chose you. Choose Him.

Choose love.