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Archive for the ‘Embarrassment’ Category

6 Prayers for Marital Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

SOURCE:  Jennifer Greenberg/The Gospel Coalition

“Can I ask you a personal question?” she said.

“Of course,” I replied. I already knew what she was going to say. Many before her had already asked, but I was still grappling with how to answer.

She hesitated, as if bracing herself to speak words physically painful to pronounce.

“Did your dad’s sexual abuse negatively affect your romantic relationship with your husband?” she asked. “I’ve been married for 20 years, and I still can’t shake this feeling of shame and anxiety. Every time we’re intimate, I feel sick. I’m afraid something is broken in my mind. I’m afraid my trauma is hurting my husband and destroying our marriage. What should I do? How can I heal from this?”

If you’re a pastor or counselor, you’ve likely encountered similar questions. If you’re a survivor of abuse, you may have asked them yourself. The devastating trauma of abuse is incalculable. Its pervasive pain affects the most intimate aspects of life.

And it’s not just women asking these questions. Men and women have confided that, while they desire intimacy, they can’t imagine feeling secure in a relationship. They fear their marriage is doomed to misery and divorce, or that they’d make terrible parents. Husbands and wives of survivors have asked me how they can help their traumatized spouse feel safe, loved, and attractive.

Part of the reason I struggle to answer such sensitive and complicated questions is because I’m still experiencing and working to understand my own recovery. I know from experience that these injuries are raw, painful, and personal. I don’t want to give superficial advice, or weigh survivors down under works-oriented to-do lists.

Thankfully, God has blessed us with therapists, physicians, and medications that can help us manage depression, anxiety, and other emotional injuries resultant from trauma. Ultimately, though, only God can heal the soul.

With that in mind, I’ve composed a series of prayers, in hope that you’ll be able to adapt them to fit your own situation, pray them for a loved one, or share them with a friend in need.

1. God, help me understand that you made sex.

Lord, in the beginning, you told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). You designed Adam to be attractive for Eve, and Eve to be attractive for Adam. You said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

It’s not good for me to feel alone. It’s not good for me to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or fearful of my own sexuality—you made it, and you designed it for me to enjoy. The pain of my past and the evil of others has clouded my perception of what you have made; yet I know everything you do is good.

Please help me to understand that sex is not sinful, degrading, or harmful. Free me from anxiety, humiliation, and dark memories. Let me feel the peace and love that you intend for me. Let me rest in the knowledge that you are my Creator and every part of my body—from my figure to my hormones—was designed by you.

2. Show me that sex is pure.

In Song of Solomon, the bride exclaims, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. . . . No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song 1:1–4).

Lord, I can’t imagine feeling the way this bride does. I can’t imagine viewing sex or sexuality with such innocence or confidence. She is bold. She is unabashedly desirous and flirtatious. She finds her fiancé attractive, and she can’t blame all the other ladies for thinking so too. She is eager to express her love physically.

I was taught by experience to be embarrassed and fearful of sex. Ungodly sexuality distorts my understanding, inhibits my expression, and weighs down my soul.

Lord, take away the confusion caused by abuse, betrayal, injustice, and other people’s evil. Help me to see sex as you see it: a pure gift from a holy God. Help me to realize that—though my abuser is guilty—I am innocent. Though my abuser expressed sexuality in heinous, distorted ways, I can express mine in righteous and loving ways. Because of your work in me, I can desire my spouse without shame or reserve. I can express the longings you gave me in holiness and healthiness.

3. Show me Jesus in my spouse.

Lord, you have blessed me with a godly spouse. They aren’t perfect, but they love me. They sometimes sin, but they aren’t abusive. Lord, teach me to view them how you view them. Let me see Jesus working in them. Let me seek and treasure the fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions. Lord, empower me to me see my spouse as you see them; someone you are conforming into the image of Christ.

Lord, free me from associating our intimacy with abuse, or their motives with my abuser’s motives. Instead, allow me to associate their good character with the Good Shepherd. Grow me in faith to adore my lover with unabashed passion and grace. For you did not give us a spirit of fear and embarrassment, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Free me to love fearlessly.

4. Bless my spouse.

God, it’s hard to trust that you’re good and faithful. It’s even harder to believe that my spouse really loves me. My abuser betrayed me. Those who should have intervened abandoned me. I expect disappointment and rejection, because that’s what I’m used to. But you, God, are unchangeable, righteous, and true. You are sovereign over my spouse’s heart. Fill me with such certainty of your devotion that I cannot doubt your work in my heart or theirs.

Help my spouse to forgive me when I’m wrong and be patient when I’m weak. Help me to forgive them when they’re wrong and be patient when they fail. Bless them with wisdom, Lord. Give them the clarity they need to help me navigate these challenges, and the wise advice to support my healing. Bolster them up behind and before. May my recovery be such a miraculous work, that their faith is strengthened because of it.

5. Show me how you see me.

Before your face, God, my value is not defined by what’s happened to me, or even by what I have done. Rather, my value is defined by what Jesus has done for me.

Teach me, Lord, to see myself as you do. Help me to know myself as your perfect, spotless, beautiful child and cherished heir of heaven. If I truly grasped in my heart of hearts how treasured, lovely, and pure you consider me, I’d never be ashamed again. Scatter the shadows that haunt me. Lift the veil that shrouds my face. Let me see myself as loved and accepted by you.

6. Take my heart and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.

Jesus, I cannot overcome my pain. There is too much fear, sorrow, anxiety, and confusion for me to untangle, let alone fix. But you are the Great Physician. You are my Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). You carried my sin to the cross. Jesus, you can carry my trauma, too. Bury it far from me. Let it weigh me down no more.

You are the Redeemer who made the lame walk and the blind see. By your power, the sick are healed and the dead raised to life again. You can heal my broken heart.

My recovery isn’t a to-do list. My happiness isn’t a standard I have to live up to, or a goal I must struggle to achieve. When I rely on my own efforts, I rely less on yours. Fix my eyes on you, Lord. You are my joy. You are my peace. You are Love. You knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13); knit me whole again now. Heal me for your glory, Lord. Empower me to love you better, not because I deserve your love, but because you deserve mine.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

10 Ways Parents Embarrass Their Teens

SOURCE:  Hayley DiMarco/Family Life Ministry

How to prove to your kids that you’re not weird.

It’s sad but true—most of us will embarrass our kids at some point in our lives. Some relationships will be unaffected, as many teens just shrug off the goofy things parents do, but others will suffer because of your teen’s fear of what you’ll do next, and that’s what’s really at issue here.

If you fit into any of the following categories, please give these ideas some thought. You might want to consider some lifestyle improvements, teen style.

1. Yelling at them in public. If I were going to suggest you change any one thing you’re doing, I’d suggest you change this one. When you yell at your teenager in public, you do a great deal to damage their young hearts and minds. Your goal, I assume, is to raise a confident, successful person, and yelling at them and belittling them in public is a surefire way to create a weak, depressed, and dysfunctional adult.

You usually yell because you feel powerless, and that shows your teenager that you are out of control. So maintain your composure. If you feel like you’re going to explode, you should excuse yourself, take a break, and talk to them when you are more in control.

2. Dressing less than fashionably. This is a hard one. You’re busy; you don’t have time to keep up with all the fashions and shop till you drop. I understand, but if you are still wearing clothes you bought more than 10 years ago, you might just be causing your fashion-conscious teen to blush. It’s true that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and judging appearances is so superficial, but it’s how we think as human beings. Whether you realize it or not, how you dress tells people how you want them to think of you.

3. Trying to be “cool.” A lot of parents hate the fact that they are getting older, and in order to forget it or to hide it, they act like teenagers themselves. Or at least they try. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a really cool mom or dad. But that means a parent who isn’t embarrassing and who is kind, friendly, non-invasive, and loving. It doesn’t mean a parent who dresses and talks like they’re still 22.

If you find yourself trying to entertain your kid’s friends or spending every weekend with the gang, then perhaps you’re trying too hard to be the kid and not the parent.

4. Being too loud and drawing attention to yourself and them. This is often closely related to wanting to be “cool.” Loud parents are an embarrassment because they are trying to draw all of the attention to themselves. This makes the child feel like they are being either upstaged or humiliated. When you draw attention to yourself by being loud, you are really saying to your child and the world, “It’s all about me! What about me? I need some attention.”

5. Being too affectionate in public. Adolescence is the time when kids are exploring the world. They are learning how to function as individuals, and when you are overly affectionate, you make them feel, and look to their friends, like a little baby. For teens who are learning to grow up and fend for themselves, this is a huge embarrassment. So save the affection for the privacy of your home, and help them make the giant step into adulthood by giving them their space in public.

6. Treating them like a little kid in front of their friends. When your child was a baby, you would wipe their face because they couldn’t do it themselves. But when you do that and other babying-type things now, you make them feel like they aren’t big enough to care for themselves. And as I’ve been saying, this is the time in your child’s life when they need to practice leaving the nest and flying solo. If they can’t take care of themselves now, then how will they ever do it when they are truly out on their own? So control yourself. Resist the urge to treat them like they are a kid in front of their friends.

7. Grilling their girlfriend or boyfriend—This one is totally understandable. When your teenager has a date, it’s good for you to know who they are dating. I don’t want to tell you not to do this, but it can really embarrass your teenager. Frankly, I think it’s something they’re just going to have to learn to live with, although there might be ways of doing it that are, say, more sympathetic than other ways.

8. Saying something stupid in front of their friends. This one is almost unavoidable … at least I know it is for me! Sometimes you’re going to put your foot in your mouth, no matter who you’re with. Just do your best not to be too unguarded with your word selection in front of the friends.

9. Drinking too much or doing drugs. This one seems obvious to most, but some parents feel like they have a right to keep on doing the things they’ve always done, including mood-altering substances. If this is you, I encourage you to get help. If you want successful teens, then consider the fact that if you continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, you will more than likely soon be estranged from your teen, who is at great risk of taking on the same behavior as you.

10. Not taking care of your body. No one said parenting was easy, so why would you be shocked that it might also include taking better care of yourself? Giving your child the gift of your health is priceless. If your body draws attention to your teenager, then I can almost guarantee you that they are embarrassed. Teens desperately hope to avoid situations that will make them look odd, and that includes having an odd parent.

Failure: This is not the time to give up and run from God

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Many people begin the Christian life with excitement, expecting that everything will be different immediately! They think that they will not have any desire to walk in the negative patterns they used to enjoy … but that is just not the way it works.

Becoming a Christian means you are forgiven—not perfect.

Receiving Jesus is not a “quick fix” for old habits and their consequences. Change takes time, and we can’t rely on ourselves to make these changes. If we try to transform ourselves, we will always be disappointed. Transformation can only take place as we build our relationship with God by spending quality time with him praying and studying the Bible.

Are you a new Christian and still struggling with old habits and their consequences? Or maybe you have been a Christian a long time but things from your past seem to be pressing in on you.

Perhaps you have tried and tried to overcome, but nothing seems to work. You might feel like a failure. You’ve let yourself, others and God down time and time again

This is not the time to give up and run from God, ashamed and embarrassed.

Instead, run to him.

Ask for his forgiveness and his help. Follow the apostle Paul’s example. He knew he hadn’t achieved perfection, but he put the past behind and pressed on—focusing on becoming and doing all God had called him to. Learn from your past, leave it behind … and press on.

Father, I thank you for continuing to love me, even when I let you down. Forgive me for all those times. Help me to learn from past mistakes, but not to dwell on them. Help me to look ahead and to press on to become all you have designed me to be and to accomplish the purpose of my journey. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

How God Embraces the Embarrassed

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

Whether it’s a laughable underwear-on-stage experience (laughable later), or a deeply unsettling loss of integrity, embarrassment is a besetting quality of human life. It lurks and stalks beneath the surface of our circumstances, waiting to sink its teeth into our every failing and loss — intentional or naive, serious or jovial, public or private, embarrassment is a trained hunter of human failure.

Getting Behind the Blush

As with any concept, it is best to begin with a clear definition. For our purposes, we will define embarrassment this way: The emotional experience of being judged by others, whether rightly or wrongly; perceived or real. This embarrassment has five basic components.

1. Escape

“I want to die.” “I want to fly away.” “I want to disappear.” “I want to stop existing.” “I want to go back in time.”

Naturally. We want to escape the people. Embarrassment is an experience of the reaction of others to our condition or experience.

And it’s nauseating. Our very bodies start running away from us, out of our control. Tears. Blush. Vomit. Embarrassment is an emotional nuclear meltdown — not a fit, but an uncontrollable and convulsive inside-out-ness. The structures that support us begin to fall — our operating system fails from overload, and we just. . . want. . . to. . . ugh. “Get me out of here.”

2. Shame

“I am unacceptable.” “I have defiled myself.” “People now see the worst of me.” “People see me as undesirable, dirty, disgusting.”

When embarrassed, we assume we have elicited the gag reflex in everyone around us. In that moment, we feel like a monstrosity at whom people tilt their heads, from whom parents hide their children’s eyes, whom adults only speak of in morbidly curious judgment. The embarrassed are self-professed psychics, hearing, “I didn’t know you were so creepy, gruesome, strange, icky, hideous, shameful.”

Choose your poison. It’s there. In the moment, in the emotion, embarrassment is laced with fatal doses of shame.

3. Loneliness

“Not only am I not okay. Everyone else is fine.” “I am the only one who would do something this stupid.” “I am the only one who would be this dumb.” The loneliness of embarrassment can take extreme forms. “I am the pure and full embodiment of failure.” “Others fail, but not like me.” “Others make mistakes, but not like an idiot, not like me.”

To be embarrassed is to feel alone. In whatever amount, loneliness is a universal ingredient in the embarrassment cocktail. Stigma. Social exile. Them over there … me over here. No matter the circumstances, in the moment and emotion of embarrassment, we are utterly isolated and distanced, banished from words like “normal,” “everyone,” and “belonging.” Embarrassment revokes our access to the word “us.”

4. Self-Deprecation

“I deserve their scorn.” “I deserve to be laughed at.” “I deserve to be demoted to a lower social caste.” “I hate myself.” “Why did God even make me?”

Self-deprecation is more than shame. It is articulated and pointed. Shame is a blunt weight on our back. Self-hatred is a knife in our own hand. Self-deprecation is also more than loneliness; it is rationalized: “You should be alone. Who would want to associate with you?” Self-deprecation is our natural inclination to answer embarrassment’s “Why?” with a staunch “Because of me — obviously, again — because of me.”

5. Legalism

“I could have prevented this if I had been better.” “I could have stopped this if I had done better.” “I have put myself here.” “It’s all my fault.” “It’s always my fault.”

Embarrassment remembers. It keeps a record of wrongs. When embarrassed, we feel the cutting edge of disapproval from God and neighbor. Embarrassment is the emotional experience of failed earthly justification — of failing to attain “righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (Philippians 3:9). “From the law.” Insert: the righteousness that comes from being wealthy, successful, morally upright, popular, stable, employed, and socially savvy. Now imagine all of the condemnation that can rip you to shreds when you drop a meatball in your lap at a business lunch. “Now there’s no hiding how stupid I am.”

Embracing God in Embarrassment

Embarrassment is an obnoxious suffering. It is not something of which we can repent. Embarrassment is an experience of losing control of one’s self and circumstances. Embarrassment is an emotional and spiritual reality in which it seems like God is either absent, laughing along with the crowd, or expecting us to just move on and get over it already. But God rushes in to offer several unexpected gifts for the embarrassed.

1. Escape

Perhaps surprisingly, God endorses our desire to escape — but he won’t let us escape him (John 10:28–29). The first embarrassing moment in history: Adam believes that God is coming against him as he hides in shame: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). God’s response? “Good. Run. Get out of here. We don’t want you here. Look at yourself: naked, shameful, sinful.” We expect it. But no. Never. “The Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23) “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).

God says, “Hey, let’s get you out of here. This place isn’t safe. What do you have there? Fig leaves? Here are some leather garments; you’re cold. Come with me.” Why? “Lest he. . . live forever.” Parsed simply: “I won’t let this be your life.” “I won’t let you be inside-out forever.” That feeling of ours is grievous and important to him (Isaiah 51:3).

2. Protection

God is urgently involved in protecting the embarrassed — but he won’t let us run away from hard experiences either. In the moment of embarrassment, let the words of Genesis 3 show us God’s disposition toward the embarrassed: Notlaughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid. “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4). You want to escape? God is helping you to do just that — but you won’t escape him, and you won’t run away. He will rush into your embarrassment, break you out of hopelessness by strengthening your feeble arms (Colossians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and stand with you as your honor no matter your circumstances (Psalm 62:7). He does not mock. He does not forsake (Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 37:28).

“In your embarrassment, God is not laughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid.”

3. Perspective

A moment of embarrassment is like a moment of severe pain — all of our attention is on the bruise, the sprain, the break, the gash. Most often, we are powerless before embarrassment. It is locomotive, overpowering, controlling. But as we spin into our emotional tornado, God gives us relational grips to reach for. However embarrassed we feel, this moment will not last in the minds of others around us. Remember: embarrassment isn’t about the thing — embarrassment is about our experience of how other people experience us.

So let’s split up the opinion of others into unbelievers and believers. (1) To the unsanctified, the sinful heart is too self-involved to indulge in the downfall of others for long — they “seek their own desire” (Proverbs 18:1), “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5), and are only bent on their own universe, even to their detriment — they “immediately forget what [they look] like” (James 1:24). And (2), to the sanctified, there is grace (Colossians 4:6), tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32), and even protection to be received. People do not have the energy to harbor such sadistic scorn for long. And if they do, it certainly does not reflect the attitude of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:6; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:3–8).

People can be cruel to us, but often not as treacherous as we are to ourselves.

4. Communal Acceptance

Christians are often the first people to have a reason to qualify love, “Yes, God forgives them. . . . but they should be ashamed.” “. . . but let’s be real.” “. . . but they should know better.” “. . . but they should do/be better.” This is a failure to “rid [ourselves] of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from [our] lips” (Colossians 3:8). Embarrassed people already know that they have not made ideal choices or been placed in ideal circumstances. They need Jesus Christ, not a qualified personal Christian opinion (Hebrews 13:20–21).

We should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19), we “should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2), and we should “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The embarrassed need to receive Christ through real flesh and blood people (2 Corinthians 7:6). Because embarrassment is primarily an emotional experience ofother people, then the church, as other people, is in the perfect place to dispel the myth that they are under judgment, shame, or worthy of self-hatred. The church needs to find an “us” with the embarrassed. “Hey, I know you probably have tons of emotions swirling around. . . but this one time I messed up big, and was so embarrassed. Let me tell you my story.” “. . . but my spouse left me as well, and I’m here to talk if you ever want to.” “. . . but by the way, nobody is gossiping about this. We all just love you and hope you’re okay.”

Acceptance “from God” is real, and perhaps helpful long-term. But very often, what we need is acceptance from God in the form of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:7). In this way, the people of God combat both loneliness and shame.

5. Words

The last place the embarrassed will go is Scripture. Why would we go to a book that shames us? “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The embarrassed are not a holy people. Or are they? Where would we fit in Scripture? It’s obvious. Out. Out where? Probably “the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). Yes, there.

Well, maybe not. Scripture doesn’t cast us out. There are more fitting and redemptive roles to play for the embarrassed. God wrote embarrassment into the script of redemptive history, and therefore the Christian life — it’s part of the plan. For those who have sinned, God gives the words, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). For those who have suffered, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived’” (Job 3:3).

Okay, so there are words for the embarrassed, but are there any positive words? Yes. Look to the crucified criminal. Publicly displayed, without excuse, exiled, punished, ashamed, naked, utterly embarrassed, interjecting into Jesus’s cry of dereliction, “Remember me” (Luke 23:42). The criminal is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), who cries “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Embarrassment, rejection, exile, shame, and loneliness are all real. And so the embarrassed are a people who cry “Why have you forsaken me?” with Jesus, who says to them, “You will be with me” (Luke 23:43), and “Can a woman forget her nursing child. . . ? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16). To the embarrassed, Jesus is not just with us. He is one of us. Not embarrassed of us, but standingwith us. He calls us his own.

In moments of embarrassed shame, loneliness, self-hatred, and failure, God gives the embarrassed his very Son (Romans 8:32), protection, perspective, acceptance, and words to say when (not if) embarrassment comes. The Redeemer is not surprised by our embarrassment, and he is not unprepared for it either.

“Jesus is not embarrassed of you, but stands with you as your crucified, humiliated Savior.”

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