Thursday, May 14, 2009
A week ago, my friend Kia and I finished co-teaching a sexual integrity course called, “God’s Blueprint for Life, Love, and Marriage,” developed by Carrie Abbot of Heartbeat International. The Alight Pregnancy Center Director asked us to teach this series, and we agreed to do so as a means of pro-actively combatting abortion. After all, the best way to eliminate abortion is to avoid enaging in actions that lead to abortion. Alight is committed to offering abortion alternatives: counseling, clothing, supplies, and hope to pregnant women and teens. It also provides loving support to people who have already had abortions. Ironically, it is located right next door to Planned Parenthood. And the Alight Center is definitely a light in this community.
The purpose of the course is to take an in-depth look at sexuality and have open and honest discussions about handling that sexuality with integrity. A key theme is that sexual integrity spills over into every area of your life: what you do with your body, how you dress, what you speak about, and of course when and with whom you engage in sexual relationships.
A volunteer group from Gospel Community Church of Coxsackie was the first to go through it. Now, some would question why a group of "churched" people would need to take a class like this. "Every Christian knows," you may say, "that the Bible demands abstinence until marriage." True, but though the course has abstinence at its core, it's more than that. This course is about a lifestyle of sexual purity. It's about understanding why God asks us to remain abstinent until marriage and faithful to our spouses afterwards. It's about what makes us tick--women and men, for each is driven by different things for entirely different reasons. It's about understanding our dreams, voicing our non-negotiables, and identifying our behavior and the message it sends.
Our first night together, if I didn't learn anything else, I learned this: young people in church feel like the church does not discuss the topic of sex enough, but they want--and even need--that dialogue in that safe place. Don't wonder why our kids in youth group are having pre-marital sex if you're not discussing sexual integrity with them. Sure, they know they're not to have illicit sexual relationships, but do they know this? The know I'm talking about requires conversing about the things that may make you uncomfortable so our young people and singles can live lives of purity.
This brings me to the how of sexual integrity. I have always vehemently disagreed with people who say that abstinence is impossible or unrealistic. It is possible, but not without a plan. Abstinence is strategic, not accidental. I think that should be a bumper sticker or a T-shirt or something! You don't fall into abstinence; you have to walk it out--and it requires God-consciousness, self-consciousness, forethought, and accountability. If any of these things is missing, abstinence is likely to be impossible. Before you decide to write me off as some crazy woman with her head buried in the sand, let me just say that I speak from personal experience. I'm a Christian, I'm single, and I know what I'm talking about!
"God’s Blueprint for Life, Love, and Marriage,” is about loving people enough to share the truth with them and then offering ourselves to them for support, not just for the eight weeks but for as long as they need us. The participants were willing to open themselves up and pour out their hearts, to just be real. The world has had enough phony. We need truth and transparency, and we need people we can trust. These ladies provided that and made themselves accountable to one another.
Kia and I believe they will fulfill their desire to live their lives with sexual integrity. What's even more exciting is that all but one of these ladies signed up to be mentors for the next group of ladies who will take the course. Isn't that what it's all about--passing on to someone else what you've received?
Here are a few comments from the course participants:
"I never realized how much my everyday decisions impacted my sexual integrity. It has been a great learning experience!" --Anna, age 16
"I found all the information equipped me to walk out my sexual integrity with a deeper understanding of God's perspective on, and purpose for, sex." --Kerri, age 18"I learned how I am supposed to act, as well as why." --MaryBeth, 20
"I believe that in a society that is so bogged down with sex and impurity, the church needs to stand pure. This series is one way that we can do this." --Victoria, 18
"This study really helped me make a stand and truly formulate my beliefs enough so I wouldn't only say, 'Sex is wrong,' but be able to say, 'Sex is wrong because...'" --Bethany, 17
"Carrie Abbot brings light to dark places that have been overlooked." --Catherine, 15
"Your body is a temple and worth waiting for." --Serria, 28
Ranging in age from 15 to 28, each participant clearly walked away with a deeper understanding and commitment to living out their sexuality with integrity. We make that decision every moment of every day, in every decision. And we must, for as Serria pointed out, we're worth it.
Here are some pictures of the group on our last night together: