Friday, February 18, 2011

How To Move on From a Mistake

Dear Jocelyn,
Apologies if I go on and on...

I'm 19 and don't have any Christian friends; I don't really have many non-Christian friends either, but the friends I do have seem to love sex. I had a boyfriend who I was with for a year and a half, but we broke up about 3 years ago. I unfortunately made the mistake of sleeping with him and I regret it! I don't believe in sex before marriage so I'm very disappointed in myself. I wasn't really a strong Christian at the time (which still doesn't excuse my mistake) as I was quite angry and disappointed with God due to my deafness. (I speak clearly and am learning sign language: long story short, I had meningitis when I was a baby, was dying, God saved me but I still ended up deaf.)

I'm slowly getting to know God again and growing in faith, but I still find it difficult to get over the fact that I had sex; it’s difficult having no Christian friends to confide in, and I haven't been to church in months and months because I feel that I keep letting God down! I use to dream about sex a lot; it was hard trying to dream about something else because I didn't know what to dream about instead but I'm getting there. Basically I'm struggling - I feel like I'm trying to reach God but I keep holding back, it’s like I take one step forward and three steps back every time. I'm my worst enemy at the moment. Please help me...
- Lost

Dear Lost,
It sounds as if there are several different issues at play here.  When you were younger, you were (understandably) bitter towards God about being deaf, and made the mistake of sleeping with your boyfriend at the time.  Now that you are growing in your faith again, you deeply regret that decision and are holding back in your relationship with God because of it.  Let's address one issue at a time:

I can see why you were angry with God.  Not only were you 16 and having to go through the difficult emotions that every teenager goes through, but you were also dealing with deafness after a tragic illness as a baby.  This is something that even a wise, mature adult would have difficulty processing.  I would highly recommend seeing a Christian therapist or counselor to properly deal with your anger and disappointment.

Now, let's address your sexual relationship with your ex-boyfriend: I have several Christian friends who planned on remaining a virgin until their wedding night, but, during a period of rebellion or confusion, became sexually involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  What I have noticed that all these friends have in common is that this particular mistake grieves them more deeply than any other sin or mistake they have made.  While there might be several reasons for this, my guess is that it grieves them because they know they have lost something beautiful.  Christians wait until marriage for sex because we know that God made sex to be beautiful, and that when it is shared solely between a husband and wife, it is a uniquely deep and precious intimacy.  There is an entire book of the Bible (Song of Solomon) reserved for the achingly beautiful sexual love that a husband and wife share.  Therefore, it is reasonable for you to grieve the loss of this.  It is right for you to be upset that you shared this with someone who was not your husband.  But, it is essential for you to remember this: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive and redeem you from your sin.  This particular action (having premarital sex) is not even the worst of things that Jesus came to forgive!  He came to pay for the sins of liars, cheaters, murderers, and abusers.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Memorize this verse and recite it to yourself when you feel down about yourself.

The final issue seems to be your current relationship with God.  You have no Christian friends and attend church sporadically.  This could be part of the reason you struggle in your relationship with God!  There is a story in the Bible that I think can illustrate this issue:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45).

This doesn't just apply to demons - when we simply try to stop committing sins and don’t work on replacing them with Christ-centered thoughts and actions, there is a void in us waiting to be filled.  Often, this void is filled with something even worse than before.  The key is to fill the void with God, with thoughts and deeds that are focused on Christ.  In psychology, this is known as the elephant trick - if you tell someone to not think about elephants, it is all they are going to think about!  However, if you give them something else to focus on, they will easily and naturally not think about elephants.  I would recommend that you make the commitment to attend church regularly, even if you are not feeling up to it.  That will fill your life with something godly to focus on.  Try making friends in your church, or find a young adult's bible study to attend with people your age.  As you make new Christian friends, you will naturally spend less and less time with non-Christian friends.  This would be a good step to take now.  While there is nothing wrong with having friends who are not Christian, right now it is only making it harder for you to grow in your faith.  You said at the beginning of the letter that your friends love sex - this difference in values is making it difficult for you to focus on living your new life in Christ.  Just like a drug addict stays away from old friends, and an alcoholic might stop hanging out with a drinking buddy, I would encourage you to gradually move away from any friends who are holding you back in your spiritual walk.   

I hope this helps.  Take heart in knowing that as you grow in your relationship with Christ, the guilt you feel will become easier to let go of.  Please know that you are on the right path and are doing the right thing.

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