It’s Time To Ditch The Term “Sexual Purity”.


I’d like you to meet someone, Visitors.

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This is Beauty Beyond Bones. (beautybeyondbones.com) She’s a stunning, young Christian woman who writes a blog about her life, which starts with a very dark description of her bout with anorexia.

Visitors, her story is friggin’ terrifying. I had no idea. For those of us in helping professions, I’d like to steer you to her blog, where she eloquently writes about the depth of self-loathing, self-hatred and utter despair that lashed her mercilessly during her battle for her life. Beauty, as we shall call her, entered an inpatient eating disorders clinic at 5′ 6″ and 78 lbs. She was so skeletal that all of her inpatient medical personnel were on a death watch for this kid, and were surprised when she woke up each morning. She had depleted ALL of her fat stores, including the ones that protected her brain and vital organs. Her body was feeding on her muscles- the biggest concern being that her body would start to devour her heart, and it would stop. Horrifying.

Read here for a heartwrenching description of Beauty’s raging battle with profound dysmorphia. (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2015/03/) Brace yourself, this is a very difficult read. She’s a victorious delight now, and writes about her artistic endeavors in NYC.

Beauty is a true, powerful warrior of the Lord. With the help of the Spirit of God, daily she vanquishes the inner voice of torment that works so hard to convince her that she is unloved, a burden, a parasite, and the world would be a better place without her.

Beauty recently wrote a  troubling column detailing her commitment to her future husband. She wants to preserve her sexuality as a magnificent gift reserved only for the man God is preparing for her.

Read this one, Visitors, there’s something off here.  (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2016/06/13/v-card/.)  Did you catch that? Beauty is a committed Christian woman, yet somehow she’s saddled with the idea that obedience to God’s direction for sexual exclusivity is somehow weird. Granny panties-orthopedic shoes- six cats at home weird. Conspicuous, somehow unnatural, weird.

What’s up with that? What did we, fellow Christians, have to do with adding to, or lightening that burden that weighs on Beauty?

I’d like you to meet someone else, Visitors. Her name is Diane, and I met her through a shared interest in dance.

Diane was blindsided by a recent divorce. She’s the same age as me, and had been married for the same 23 years. Diane was very engaging to me for many reasons. One of which was that her husband presented as if he were an abuse survivor, a topic that they never broached during their marriage. Predictably, physical intimacy was a challenge for Diane and her husband,  one that became insurmountable and eventually was the tipping point that ended the marriage.

Diane was devastated by this. She simply didn’t see it coming. When her husband abruptly had her served with papers, she was plunged into an ice-cold, isolating eddy of despair.

Physically, Diane is one of the most stunning examples of humanity I have seen. She’s an eight time IronMan athlete, her full head of chestnut hair sprinkled with becoming touches of grey. Running is her specialty, she habitually brings home Firsts in her age group in any race she participates. She’s nationally ranked, and coaches running groups of lesser athletes with humor and grace.

I helped Diane pick out some clothes for a student production at her studio. For me, it was a blast to peruse shocking pinks and lively blues and talk about tailoring items to flatter her unusually fit physique.

Diane could hardly stand it. As we got to know each other better, I would be very direct with Diane.

“Di, look at this dress.  It makes your shoulders look great! Your legs look fabulous in this one, and this one makes you look smoking hot all the way around!”  With every observation, Diane seemed to withdraw, to pull farther into herself. It was as if, in her fifth decade, any aspect of healthy sexuality was somehow taboo, off limits for even adult women to discuss. What’s up with that? Two fellow Christians, talking about sexuality-related things. Why should this be hard?

Like all of my post-40, newly divorced friends, Diane was floundering. Everything she thought she knew to be true had been rocked by this profound rejection.  Diane was ashamed of her life,  ashamed of her failed marriage, and doubted God’s love for her.

Privately, sexual intimacy loomed in front of Diane as a solution. If she could find another man to ‘love’ her in this way, someone with whom she could share her most intimate desires, perhaps life would regain some sense of normalcy. Perhaps she would feel better.  Someone to fill her lonely days, someone to appreciate her athletic aspirations, maybe even someone with whom to share the second half of her life.

It is terribly hard for me to watch my divorced friends suffer like this.  Self deceit is a  trap like no other and Diane paid the price.

One freezing Colorado afternoon, I held her hand on the surgical table as the gentle doctor removed a portion of her intimate parts. I gave her tissues as she wept in lonely sorrow over another man who she thought had loved her, and had abandoned her to the ravages of a cancerous sexual infection he had given her.

Diane was alone, rejected,  again.

Christian Visitors,  how can we mitigate this, help ease this suffering of our own?  We simply must drop the shame, that will help.   We must unbind the language of cultural judgement, and attach our value to the word of God. ALL sin is created equal, ALL steps outside of God’s best break the heart of Jesus.  Beauty has enough on her plate without shame, and Diane is bone-tired and weary. We have to talk about these intimate things, and we have to do it in a healthy way.  Science and the Word of God tells us that sex is entangling, every single time. There is no such thing as ‘casual’ sex, ‘free’ sex, or ‘meaningless’ sex. That said, sexuality is a gift! ALL aspects of it!

Beauty, you are simply lovely in your slinky little  dress and stiletto heels. Your makeup is darling, and your fashion sense is impeccable! Diane, you’ve worked very hard on your body, and now, you are the picture of glowing health. Your athletic performance is reflected in your lovely form,  and  you are drop-dead gorgeous in cerulean blue.

American Christians, let’s look at this hurting population through the lens of unconditional love. There is no difference at all between Diane’s mistake and me holding a grudge, or getting angry for no good reason. We are ALL impure.  Jesus made us all righteous, if we allow it.  Let’s start looking at each other how Jesus does.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

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Faces of Love: The Unlikely Joy of Peter Wiebe


Love: The Blessing and the Curse

Jesse 2010 - 2011 225To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis. (Isn’t that true? And so terrifying. To love anyone is to risk having your heart shredded.) 

It’s nice to see you, fellow Visitors. During the Sabbatical in a Teacup I mentioned to you that I had met some remarkable people in this oddly wonderful blogging community. I’d like to introduce you to one that I met a while ago, a gentleman named Peter Wiebe, who writes thresholdofheaven.com.

Peter lost his oldest son Jesse to a rare form of childhood leukemia on May 11, 2011.

Peter’s blog is a chronicle of thoughts and actions during his son’s journey to heaven. Peter is a dedicated Christian, and, like me, has had his faith sorely tried over the past stretch of time.

Valentine’s day is coming, it will be my third without my lover and best friend,Chris Lierheimer. Chris was a generous mark for all the Hallmark holidays, he just loved to give cards, candy, flowers, dinners, all the trappings.

I was often too distracted to make much of this sort of thing, which generally led to a lot of frantic night-before shopping and planning. I was just glad to have my loved ones around me, and to make sure he got his special grilled steak. (And, usually something else from my namesake Victoria’s Secret, since he’s been such a good boy.)

I’ve actually been gathering the strength to look at pictures this year.  The one in the previous entry is one of my favorites. My mom was a stunning woman her whole life, and this morning, before I went to work, I studied a series of pictures we had taken of Mom and Dad on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Bent and stooped, graying, they both had the goofy smiles of their youth, and their love for family and each other radiated from the picture.

When Peter posted this shot on the fourth, it took my breath away. Study it with me for a minute, will you? Jesse’s departure seems imminent. He can’t eat, thus the nasogastric tube. His body seems almost transparent. Frail, like that of a cocoon about to be shed.

Peter is vigorous, with good color and strong hands. Only in his eyes do you see the pain of a parent about to lose his firstborn son. Go to the blog now-thresholdofheaven.com- and read a remarkable story of redemption and love between this father and son.

I have found that people often avoid cancer blogs. No one likes to be reminded of their mortality, especially if one’s views of the afterlife are uncertain. Peter, like those of us who lay claim to the promises of Jesus Christ, looks forward to the day when he will see Jesse whole again.

But today is really all we have. Jesus doesn’t promise us tomorrow, only that we will be with him in Paradise. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? Shall we insulate our hearts, wrap them in airless containers to harden and fossilize? Or shall we be like Peter, and love extravagantly? Peter and his lovely wife poured their hearts into Jesse’s journey, and were broken for their faith.

But what else to do? When you love a child, a woman, or even an animal, it’s an extension of your own heart. The rewards are tremendous, and the risks, commensurate.

I have a series of pictures I would like you to see over the next few weeks, fellow Visitors. I call them the “Faces of Love”. They are from fellow travelers, and cover a different kind of landscape. One that I think you all will find just as beautiful and heartwrenching as any other landscape on the planet.

Much love,

Victoria

PS- Let me remind you to the introductions so far:

Everyone has a Story – birdmartin.wordpress.com.

Evan Sanders at thebettermanprojects.com

and finally Peter Wiebe at thresholdofheaven.com

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Twelve. A Spiritual Diversion to Aix. God bless you Sarah, Where ever you are.


A miraculous thing occured today, I made every deadline I was supposed to make! I didn’t oversleep, miss a cab, forget breakfast for the girls, and most importantly, we made the train to Nice!

Not only that, but I used my fractured French to find the platform, figure out which of six trains, and which coach to get on! Incredible!

So about the midpoint of our six hour trip through the southern farmland of France, we got hungry. I found the car with the train food and got in line behind a woman who looked familiar.  She was about my age and  spoke French with an interesting accent, but fluently. She turned to me, and asked me something incomprehensible.

I replied “Uh, Je regret, je parle Francaise terrible.” I’ve found that line usually gets a smile, and communication starts rolling.

“It’s ok, I just asked if you were standing in line for lunch, I haven’t made up my mind yet.” AHA! Her fluid French was American accented!

“Well, hello! So you’re an American too! ” A frown creased her pretty forehead.

“No, no. Of course not. Not at all. I’m Canadian.” Oops, another American ethnocentric boo-boo. I tried to rescue it with a joke.

“Canadian! Oh! A French baggage inspector told me a joke.” The woman smiled indulgently. “I was asking about accents, and if he could tell the difference between ours. No, he said, we all sound alike to him. But if we have an American accent and don’t like guns, then we must be Canadian.”

The woman chuckled. The line was interminable, so we started to chat. She introduced herself as Sarah.

“What brings you to France?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m on a sabbatical of sorts. My older three children are in college, and all have the same winter break. The youngest is bright enough to keep up online, so we are spending three weeks wandering around Europe. How about yourself?”

Her eyes widened, and she took on a distracted air.

‘I’m here to clear my head. I was raised in Quebec, and fifteen years ago my husband and I moved to Aix-en-provence for his job. He’s a nuclear physicist. We had to move to Laguna Beach a year and a half ago, and put the house in Aix for rent. Now the renters are gone, and just in time, because my husband just told me three weeks ago he’s dumping me for his  24 year old yoga instructor. ‘ She smiled self-deprecatingly. I mistook her smile for politely waiting for me to respond. Then my brain caught up with the conversation. My stomach started to sink.

“And now, here I am, how trite. Telling my life story on a train to a complete stranger!” Tears began to well in her eyes.

“No! No, it’s ok. Nothing is ever easy. Let’s keep talking long enough and I’ll tell you all kinds of ‘husbands-dead-too-early -from- cancer stories,’ like mine!  Really, it’s ok. ”

She looked down, and then chuckled, darkly. “No, really? Has he been gone long?”

“Two years last July.”

“I’m sorry. That’s terrible. Now I’m in a terrible spot. I have a ten year old and a twelve year old who were born in Aix. I could move them back right here, slide them right back into the same schools and live in Aix. But when I get back, who knows? I mean, I’m not supposed to tell them their dad’s being an asshole, right? Dumping me for someone that could be his daughter.”

“It happens. More than you think.”

“I guess. But now were supposed to go back and pretend to be merry for Christmas? One happy family? I’m completely screwed. I haven’t worked in fifteen years, I don’t even have working papers for the States. It’s so complicated.”

We got our food and moved to the standing tables. She continued to tell me her complicated story of fear and abandonment.

Eventually, we traded stories, and that terrible sisterhood of incompetence started to emerge.

“I just don’t think I can do this by myself. I mean, my kids are ten and twelve.”

“I get it. I felt the same way.”

“What am I going to do? I was always the domestic one. Now I have to manage all the business ends of a family.”

“Intimidating, isn’t it? But you strike me as competent.”

“I don’t know. How did you figure it out?”

Hmm. That Question. How to summarize going from a complete, non-functional basket case to the competent person I am today.

“Well, not to preach at you, but I’m a Christian. I had a pretty sturdy set of helpers from my church from the very beginning. Lots of other folks too.  All sorts of exotic flowers in God’s garden came to my aid. I had to surrender a lot of my pride, and ask for the help I needed. ”

“Hmm. You’re lucky you’re religious. I never wanted to be in a church, and neither did he. Now I sort of wish we did.”

“This might be news to you, Sarah, but you don’t have to be religious to go to a church.  Jesus doesn’t keep score. And you know what else? He understands nasty. He understands mean. He understood me when I was being unlovely, angry and bitter. Thankfully, most of that is behind me. I get lonely now, sure, but I’m never alone.”

The train was pulling into Aix.

“You strike me as strong enough to get through this, Sarah. You can do this. I am, and if I can, anyone can. ”

She gathered up her things, trying not to cry.

“Well, it’s been nice talking to you. Good luck.”

“You too, Sarah.”

God bless you, Sarah of Aix.

There Must be a Burning Bush Here Somewhere


In the midst of the most painful of faces, God shows up in the strangest of places.

Someone I trust once told me “Victoria, be careful, anger is never the end.” What he meant was that anger is easy, and often a really good mask for what’s really going on.

Shhh. It’s time to listen. I think God is speaking.

I have documented assurance that the EA battle is over, so as each day goes by, I find anger draining out of my body. Those of you who read the previous post know that my little Christian preschool was the subject of some very real religious persecution. Not fair, not right, not OK in any sense of the word. But what’s really the issue here? Religious persecution has existed for millennia, I’m actually in some pretty lofty company.

The Jewish yellow identification star.

Anger at God? Well, that’s pretty easy too. Chris didn’t do anything to deserve such suffering, and neither did I, or all these kids. But what’s really going on here? People get cancer and die. Families suffer, hundreds and hundred of you reading are feeling this ache with me right now.

Anger at friends who betray, deceive, when better paths are obvious? Everyone has experienced a betrayal, even Jesus. What’s really going on?

I am finding more and more that I just can’t keep anger up. I spent over a year being angry at the government, largely because they offended my overdeveloped sense of justice. It’s not supposed to be that way, in the land of the free.

I have spent two years being angry at God, because what God treats his faithful servants so brutally? I have found that the depth of what Christians call ‘sin’ is far more entrenched than I ever grasped. Remember the Lazarus story in John 11? The one about him being raised from the dead? Why do you suppose “Jesus wept” and the disciple John made such a point out of recording it?

I think now he wept for all of us. We were meant for better, and not to have lives that are ‘nasty, brutish and short’, as Thomas Hobbes put it.  Jesus wept because of the utter brokenness of our bodies and situations. Who knows what kink in Chris’s body gave him that horrible disease? But Jesus wept, and that alone makes me feel less solitary.

Anger at friends? Someone today told me that being associated with a ‘need’ for friends is a pretty good guarantee of disappointment. Do I ‘want’ new friends? Sure. Do I want to be social, interact with other members of the tribe? You bet. But do I ‘need’ new friends and situations? Not really. Not enough to be so wounded  when a woman chooses to end a friendship with me out of her own fearful need.

Looking, looking for what’s really going on.

In the end, I find I don’t have the energy to keep it up. Perhaps that’s the burning bush here, what God is speaking to me. I wasn’t made for anger.

I like it, I like the feel of it, the taste of it, the rush of adrenaline I get when I am so clearly wronged. I like being the avenging angel, the wrathful goddess to set things right.  I cherish my anger, I go to bed with it, and polish it, and keep it on display for others to see. I’ve made it part of me, like a prosthetic arm.

I don’t think Jesus cares much for that.  I think it transforms people, and it’s transformed me. I don’t like that much. I am beginning to see that might be what he meant when he said ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’

Remember when Jesus was healing on the Sabbath in a synagogue? (Luke 15) The leaders in the temple got pretty mad that he was ‘working’ on the Sabbath. The chapter says that Jesus was angry, but more in the context of grief. Sort of “You are my people! Why wouldn’t you be elated that I was healing on the Sabbath?”

Maybe that’s the kind of anger he wants me to have. Grieved that our government would act against the interests of the people. Grieved that a woman would abandon integrity, instead of abandoning selfishness.

Grieved that I, the owner of all this, would let anger have such a dwelling place in my heart. I think I’m done. I’d rather have peace.

Much love,

Victoria