Last week I spent a few days in Grahamstown, South Africa for my graduation. It was a weird experience because everything felt so familiar but unfamiliar at the same time. I found my way around easily but I still could not shake the feeling of ‘foreign- ness’. I was hit by waves of nostalgia and deeply buried memories were creeping up on me: that’s where I banked my money; here’s where I bought my stationery; and there’s where my friends and I ate on a shoestring budget. But even though I recognised those places well, they didn’t have the same significance to me, I had moved on.
Each one of us has a different story to tell about our sexual past. Some of us have moved on, others still struggle. When I talk to people about their sexual history most still have a lot of emotion attached to it, usually guilt or shame. People feel guilty when they have done wrong. On the other hand, shame is an emotion that is often attached to having a wrong done against you.
I want you to think of your heart as a city. Like any city it’s divided into different areas with buildings, streets and landmarks. Now that you have a clear picture of it, make your way through the streets until you get to the area where your sexuality lives. What have you built there and how do you feel about it? Maybe you look at this area of your city with guilt or perhaps you feel ashamed.
Depending on your sexual history you might feel happy, sad, excited, disappointed, indifferent or even thirsty (ah, the thirst). The reality is that most of us haven’t built this area of our cities well; it’s not a place that anyone would be proud of. Our buildings are a mess and we have no idea how to fix them. We want to forgive ourselves for the wrong that we’ve done. We want to forgive and let go of those who have done us wrong. We want to move past the past and not make the same mistakes.
We want to begin again but where do we start? It’s a process that’s summed up in 3 words: demolish, salvage, rebuild.
Demolish The reason why many of us struggle to move on from our sexual past is not because it’s too horrible to move past or because God’s punishing us for it – it is because we still hold onto the reminders of what we did or what happened. I call these things “shrines”.
A shrine is a place associated with a particular person or containing memorabilia of a particular person; or a place of worship.
For example: your letters from the ex that you slept with; the Facebook photos of that person that you’ve fantasized about; the deep dark secret that you keep and refuse to confront. But please note, it’s not the thing itself that’s the real problem, it’s the emotion that you attach to that thing or person and the memories associated with it.
Before you can truly move on the shrines in your life need to be identified and demolished.
Sometimes when a building has been condemned and needs to be demolished, a salvaging team will come in and rescue parts of the building. These building materials are not destroyed because they are still useful. The purpose of salvaging is to prevent waste. In the process of moving on from your sexual past, you need to salvage every lesson that you can from your experience. Don’t waste it.
This is important, because until you are able to identify the lessons learnt, you are in constant danger of falling into that same trap. Salvage these lessons for you but also for the purpose of sharing them with other people. Incorporate them into your story, write them down and share them with those who need to hear them.
Use your experiences, especially the bad, as an opportunity for growth. Don’t waste them.
This is the best part, and probably the hardest. The demolition phase is hard at first but once the decision is made you start to feel quite euphoric. Here’s what I mean: you realise that your lust issues are partly caused by the fact that you’re always watching sexy movies so you go on a movie deleting spree and cancel your Dstv subscription. It feels good! By the time you get to the salvaging stage your fire’s burning out and you’re feeling a little disillusioned.
This is the stage where you’re most vulnerable, your walls are down, you don’t have your shrines for comfort and all the looking back has you feeling a little nostalgic. After we’ve gone through that whole process the temptation is to “rebuild those things that I tore down”(Galatians 2:18), falling back into our old patterns of sin. But here’s what you need to remember:
1 God does the demolishing, by His power and not yours.
“I’m about to destroy your sacred god and goddess shrines… Every place where you’ve lived, the towns will be torn down and the pagan shrines demolished.” Ezekiel 6: 6-7 (MSG)
2 God does the salvaging; He will be your comfort and your strength.
“I, God, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins. I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden, her moonscape into the garden of God, A place filled with exuberance and laughter.” Isaiah 51:3 (MSG)
3 God does the rebuilding.
“I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes. The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations; the mansions will be splendid again.”
God will ruin your sex life. He wants to demolish those things which shouldn’t be there. He wants to help you salvage the lessons you need to learn. And he wants to rebuild your sex life into something that’s beautiful and pure.
Thanks for reading.