Monthly Archives: July 2013
Churchleaders.com recently posted an insightful article. The article was titled: “5 Reasons Pastors Are More Vulnerable to Sexual Temptation,” by Jeff Fisher. While the “5 Reasons” help the discussion on this emotional topic, I found the comments posted by readers quite revealing. But first, to satisfy your curiosity, here are the “5 Reasons”:
1 A pastorate is a place of power.
2 Ministers are often isolated and unaccountable for their actions.
3 Protection and policies around ministers can be lax.
4 Ministers have few people they can share their deepest struggles with.
5 Ministers frequently feed off the approval of others.
Anyhow, many of the comments on this article were revelations from Christian men that their spouses did not particularly enjoy sexual intimacy, or sex was conditional, or sex was infrequent. (If those men used their real names I’m pretty sure sex will be even more infrequent in their future.) Some of the solutions offered by commenters ranged from helpful, to comical, to a bit . . . unconventional. Nevertheless, it shocked me to learn that so many Christian couples struggle to simply enjoy sex.
The comments made me wonder if Christian couples have a higher rate of sexual dysfunction than the general population. If so, we need to ask: WHY do so many Christian couples struggle to have a fulfilling sex life?
There are many possible reasons for the problem, such as: childhood abuse, self-loathing, physical illness, mental illness, cultural influences, addictions, immaturity . . . the possible causes are numerous. But for a long time I have suspected that the church often treats sex with such a Victorian attitude that it increases the difficulty for some folks raised in the culture of Christianity to experience awesome (forgive me for using that overused word) sexual intimacy with their mate. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not proposing that Christians live a libertine lifestyle. Well, actually, a little of the libertine attitude is probably healthy within marriage. But whatever the issues preventing a Christian couple from enjoying the gift of fulfilling physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy, they can usually be overcome if each person invests completely in their marriage. It might require professional counseling, lots of listening, reading books by competent therapists, intercessory prayer for each other, and steady growth together . . . but it can get better.
You see, the Evil One wants to screw up the most intensely intimate part of our human relationship with our spouse. Why? By doing so he makes it harder for us to comprehend and enjoy a deep and healthy intimacy in any of our relationships. He knows we will eventually give up and settle for mediocre intimacy or counterfeit intimacy. Don’t give up!
As an introverted only child, my BFF was a talking dog. (You develop a fertile imagination as an only child.) I had some very pleasant conversations with that dog. Even as an adult, I have a connection with dogs. Oh I can also talk to cats, but they are usually aloof or only want to talk about the absurd ways of mice and sparrows. Contrary to popular opinion, cats are actually more superficial than dogs. (Hence their passion for chasing laser dots to perpetuity.)
Anyhow, there is a misconception out there that introverts such as me are not keen on people. (The truth is we love a small number of people and loathe the rest.) I like to think that Jesus was an introvert. Sure, he had his twelve disciples, which are more friends than a classic introvert would ever prefer. But Jesus also had one very close friend among the disciples–John. And Jesus liked to slip away to spend time alone in the wilderness; a classic sign of introversion.
Really, it doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted. Both types thrive with close friends. Proverbs 18:24 says: “There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family.”
It is in the area of friendship where I believe many churches unwittingly harm themselves. It is best described with a personal story. A friend of mine, Dave (not his real name), once shared that he and his wife, Jen (not her real name), attended a medium-size church for a few years. Dave easily connected and made friends in the church. Jen did not, though despite her introversion, she longed to connect. Dave, with great sensitivity, occasionally approached ladies in the church and beseeched them to connect with Jen. It never happened. Most of the ladies already had close friends, or they were extremely busy in their ministry roles, or they were pulled this way and that by the dictates of motherhood and careers. And so an opportunity for meaningful relationships and individual growth was lost. Dave and Jen eventually gave up and left the church. No one from the church pursued them or asked why they left. We talk a big game in the church about relationships, but we often don’t live it.
I know your counterargument: People have a responsibility to reach out to make close friends. My counterargument to your counterargument is that such an expectation usually comes from extroverts who do not comprehend what it is like to be extremely introverted (what we from the Paleolithic Era used to call shyness).
I often hear pastors proclaim that their church is a family that encourages relationships. I’m not so sure. Something is missing. Perhaps churches focus excessively on mission and too little on developing a simple culture of friendship . . . which, ironically, is part of the mission. Granted, we expect the church to fill too many of our needs and we constantly pile on more expectations. Still, there must be something the church can do to make sure that friendship is attainable in the community of Christ. A complete solution is not found in well-crafted programs such as home-groups, accountability groups, men’s ministries, women’s ministries, mentoring, counseling, or fellowship committees. The missing part of the solution happens on a personal level where individuals become vulnerable and open themselves up to the possibility of simple yet profound friendships. This will be easier for some than others.
The formula for growth that most Christian churches attempt to follow is connection, assimilation, and retention. Friendship is the often forgotten component that makes this formula work. Without it, the formula is just a Ponzi scheme where we constantly sign up new people to replace the folks who left via the back door. Eventually, retention becomes untenable without friendship.
Is it just me, or does getting older increase the sensitivity of one’s back to heat and cold? When I was a young fella, the heat and cold didn’t bother me. These days, the slightest chill in the air will run down my back and set my whole body to shivering. If the mercury (an archaic term used to describe a thermometer that measured air temperature) tops 100 degrees here in California, my back sweats like the proverbial pig.
And by the way, what happened to the long-ago magic of summer that set in after the last day of school, when each morning was filled with the promise of adventure in the outdoors? As a lad I enjoyed the freedom of riding bikes all over town, playing baseball, fishing in little streams, flagging down ice cream trucks that prowled the neighborhoods, swimming at the community plunge (and accusing my compatriots of peeing in the pool), gorging on homemade potato salad doused with paprika, laying on the floor under the swamp cooler (an archaic term used to describe a machine people used to cool their homes). Yep, those were the glory days of summer. Funny, I don’t recall sweating as a child during the summer, though I must have since mom insisted I take a bath (an archaic term used to describe a method people employed to wash their body) every couple of days.
People in the West often say: “Sure it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” Yeah, dry heat doesn’t make you feel any more comfortable when the sweat gushes from your body like a lawn sprinkler. Dry heat my . . . well, you get the picture. But despite my growing sensitivity to temperature extremes, I still love much about summer. Is there a spiritual lesson here? Maybe it’s that summer, despite its discomfort, is a blessing from God. It’s a season for growth and spending more time outdoors in God’s cathedrals.
There is something soothing and healing in a summer breeze rustling the leaves above your head. Summer can be a time of extreme activity or disinclination to activity, without the guilt. The magic of summer is still there, we just have to take time to experience it. Go camping. Go fishing. Go to a strawberry festival. Go swimming at the lake. Go to a baseball game. Explore the county fair. Have a glass of cold ice tea after mowing the lawn. If you happen to be in Northern California, drive to the redwoods where you can sit on a bench in a grove of massive trees that have been alive since Christ walked the earth, where I promise you will feel closer to God. Or go to the mountains. Go to the ocean. Go to the desert. God is there, especially in summer. He loves to see his people enjoy His handiwork and the simple pleasures that endure.
Christians get accused of trying to use the political process and laws to stop people from having fun and experiencing fulfilling lives. (Ironically, the political process is the definition of un-fun.) Many folks believe entertainment, fulfillment, jesting, and gaiety (just so there’s no jesting about gaiety) would mostly be eliminated from society if Christians had their way. The question Christians should ask is: Should we shove our values down the throats of adults who have little comprehension of all the spiritual and physical ramifications for immorality? Heck, I’m not certain most Christians understand all the ramifications. When it comes to sin, adults have freewill. We’ve had freewill since the Garden. (Of course some of the “fun” sins I’ve indulged as an adult fall into the category of childish . . . . which though ironic, won’t get me off the hook in God’s eyes.)
Some of the fun yet immoral things people enjoy clearly cause physical or psychological harm. The harmful effects of other fun activities prohibited in the Bible are not so clear and we take it on faith that God does not want people to indulge them because they harm us in some way. Granted, we have an obligation to prevent behavior that harms people and society, especially behavior that harms the most innocent and vulnerable among us. On some issues we need to take a hard stand. But again, we can only take it so far before freewill trumps our efforts to protect adults from harm.
Last year I got hooked on Duck Dynasty. It’s a TV show about a multi-generation family (the Robertson’s) who found financial success making duck calls for hunters. At first, the Robertson brothers, uncle, and father come across as a bit edgy with their long hair, beards, and Southern drawl. But as you watch more episodes, you become aware that these guys are just having a good time, despite conflicts and setbacks in life. The program shows how faith is a key component of their life.
Some Christians say that God doesn’t promise us happiness or fun times. I suppose there is fair amount of truth in that theological argument. On the other hand, I don’t recall God promising us nothing but suffering in this life. Sure, we will have problems, but we can often choose whether to have some fun along the way. The alternative is to become a dour bitter Christian who has no joy in life and takes delight in thwarting the joy and fun of others. Genuine Christians with a truly transformed heart don’t like to see people have fun in sinful ways because of the damage it causes. They love people so much that they hate to see them harmed.
Before you theologians point out that I don’t know the difference between joy and fun, let me just say that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the demonstration of the ability to have fun can be a great testimony of the presence of deep joy in a Christian’s life. So don’t feel guilty about having fun. It is possible to have a great deal of fun without slipping into debauchery.