My cravings started early.
I was 6 years old when a friend of mine initiated various sexual acts with me during a sleepover.
I felt confused but curious. I liked it, but I was afraid of someone finding out.
After that, being sexual with female friends became a regular part of my life.
After four years, the last friend I was doing these things with moved away. But my struggle wasn’t over.
Well into my teenage years, whenever relationships or sex came up in conversation, my insides tightened and my heart pounded as I imagined being called out and labeled a freak.
Even though I wasn’t attracted to girls, I thought people would presume I was. What I really enjoyed were secretly imagining a romance with a boy and the physical pleasure involved in acting out that fantasy.
The secrecy of the fantasy gave it power over me.
My experiences felt too shameful to talk about, so for years I told no one. (Read more of Heidi’s story.)
Secrets drive us into isolation and increase our shame. Over time, the weight of our secrets crushes us. But there is a way out: honesty.
The first step toward healing from the shame you feel could be telling a safe person who loves you about what happened in your life. (For more on finding safe people, see Part 1.)
Shame kept to yourself becomes like a tumor. It grows quietly, almost unnoticed, until it begins wreaking havoc with your emotional, spiritual and even physical health.
You need to rob the shame of its power over you by being honest with someone you trust and experiencing that person’s acceptance.
NOTES TO READERS:
God created sex and gave us bodies that come fully equipped with a sex drive.
He also made sex enjoyable, not just functional. Just read how the Bible talks about sexual attraction:
“May you rejoice in the wife of your youth ... may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19, NIV).
That doesn’t sound very functional, does it?
So God intends sex to be enjoyable, but He also wants it to be good for us, and that means creating a safe context for us to experience sexual relationships.
God created marriage as the context for sex. (Read more about God’s design for sex.)
When we dwell on and act out our cravings for sex without the real commitment of marriage, we reduce a profoundly spiritual experience God created to a predominantly physical one.
This can have lasting harmful effects on our ability to form healthy relationships. Our self-esteem can suffer.
We cheapen ourselves by giving in to our cravings, and this can lead us to think that we aren’t worth having the best that God wants for us.
One great misconception about sex is that it’s always intimate. Sex as a primarily physical act can be totally impersonal.
People even use sex to avoid intimacy.
Our bodies can act as screens behind which we hide our feelings of shame. We think if we can satisfy someone physically, we don’t have to worry about them rejecting the real us.
First, change your thoughts about them by meditating on what is true.
The Bible is God speaking to us, and the more we have His thoughts running through our minds, the more we are changed and begin to take on His mindset.
Scripture tells me that Jesus gives me life, breath and everything else I need. I was made for Him. No man can completely satisfy me.
Second, learn to control your cravings or you’ll be controlled by them.
Three things can help us move away from being driven by our desires and the fear that they won’t be met:
Start by identifying your triggers. Here are some I’ve experienced:
If you aren’t sure, read this article to learn how to identify them.
Share your triggers with a safe person who can help you avoid repeating past patterns. This also builds your healthy connection with others.
That’s a complicated question. If you’ve trained your brain to respond one way for years, retraining it will take time too. But it is possible.
One exercise to get you started is taking an inventory of your belief system.
Most of us believe things that aren’t true without realizing it.
Do you ever think any of these things?
Whether you realize it or not, these beliefs dictate your actions. Once you recognize the lies you’ve believed, you can choose to let truth from the Bible dictate your reactions to the situations you face.
For example, I believed I had to be in a relationship to feel complete. But reading Philippians 4:11, I recognized that God helps me learn to be content in whatever circumstances I am in, with or without a partner.
Transformation takes time, and change is more likely to happen in a safe community than in isolation.
God hardwired you for intimacy. He designed you to need relationship with Him and others.
God wants you to have real, true and lasting intimacy, not the imitation of temporary pleasure or false security. Don’t settle for shallow connection, but invest in meaningful relationships with people who are committed to the real you.
Heidi Smith is on staff with Cru at the University of Maryland. She is passionate about equipping the body of Christ to be a safe community for women to heal.
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