Owning Up to Our Sexual Sin
About the Guest
Do you feel remorse over your sexual past? Barbara Wilson tells how she found forgiveness from past sexual sins, including an abortion, and how others like her are finding freedom as well, as they’ve faced their sins buried deep in the past.
Barbara WilsonBarbara Wilson is the abstinence educator and director for faith-based Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Sacramento, California. She has written several curricula, and her messages on abstinence and sexual bonding are heard by approximately two thousand adults and teens per year. Barbara’s monthly newsletter, PURE IMPACT, equips and informs teens, parents, and youth workers with the latest facts and trends among teens regarding sex and relationships. She and her husband, Eric have four...more
Do you feel remorse over your sexual past?
Owning Up to Our Sexual Sin
Bob: Barbara Wilson looked back on her past with a lot of regret. She had been sexually active prior to marriage. She’d had an abortion; she’d been married and divorced. For years she found herself in bondage to her past sins.
Barbara: For 25 years I kept all of this a secret and I just tried to deal with it on my own. I was asking God to forgive me over and over and over again. I kept wondering why don’t I feel forgiven. Why do I still trigger shame and regret and guilt?
God showed me that my repentance in the past had been worldly. It had been about me. I just felt bad for what I’d done, and I wanted to feel better. But, God wanted me to experience godly sorrow, and see it from His perspective. Part of that process of godly sorrow is what led to real repentance which is what set me free from my shame and my pain.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. If you look back on your past with some regret over sexual sin, have you experienced godly sorrow that leads to real repentance? We’re going to talk about what that means today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I sometimes wish we could go back a hundred years and have a conversation with married couples, and just try to get a picture of what sexual intimacy was like for couples then.
Dennis: What issues they were facing.
Bob: Yes. Whether the problems that many couples are experiencing when it comes to their sexual intimacy today, are vastly different than the problems that those couples faced a hundred years ago, or whether there are similarities.
Dennis: Well, you remember a guest we had here on FamilyLife Today a number of years ago, Bob, who talked about what the Puritans did to help keep their sons and daughters pure. I’m chuckling because of the visual nature of this. But, they bundled them. They wrapped them up in blankets. The boy was mummified and so was the girl. Then they’d leave them to have conversations. Now think about that for a moment.
Bob: I also remember that when those young people got married in those Puritan days, a part of the reception was for the boy and the girl to go up to the loft and come back down having consummated their marriage relationship. Everybody knew who was downstairs eating the chicken wings or whatever they had at the reception, everybody knew what was going on and when they came down, everybody cheered for them.
Barbara: Talk about pressure.
Bob: A very different day than in our day.
Dennis: No doubt about it, our day is one of sexual promotion, sexual promiscuity, sexual abuse, date rape. I mean, there are just a number of traps impacting our young people today.
Bob: I guess most people don’t have buffalo wings at the reception. So… (laughs)
Dennis: I was picturing buffalo wings with the Puritans.
Bob: I was just thinking of the ideal reception. In my mind they’d have some buffalo wings.
Dennis: I thought about asking you about buffalo wings and Puritans but you probably had some kind of inside track. Well, let’s introduce our guest, Barbara Wilson on our broadcast today. Barbara welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you, great to be here.
Dennis: Barbara is a speaker. She’s an author. She lives along with her husband Eric in Sacramento, California. She has spoken before committees and groups at the United Nations. She’s written a number of books. The latest is called Kiss Me Again, which is restoring lost intimacy in marriage. Barbara you’ve been leading groups of women through a recovery process that restores hope, allows them to move from shame to forgiveness and grace to finally being able to move into their marriage with hope and expectancy and passion.
You made a statement before we came on the air that a number of these women that are in your groups have found their way to promiscuity because they were first sexually abused, or had some kind of sexual experience before they were married. Will you explain what you mean by that?
Barbara: Yes. I think in our culture that there’s so much pressure for the girls to have sex. So, they’re being forced or pressured into sex. Maybe not even really understanding what’s happening. Then they feel like, “Okay, I was going to save sex for marriage and now that’s over, that dream or that goal is over…” So they feel like they’re damaged goods. Then they go, “Well, what’s the big deal now? I might as well have sex.” I know so many of the women are struggling with that.
Bob: So, are you saying that for a young woman, once she has crossed a line, once virginity has been surrendered, instead of thinking, “I never want to do that again.” She thinks, “Well, I guess I’ve lost that. Now, I might as well have it all the time.”?
Barbara: Here’s the thing. It’s just like when Eve took that first bite of the apple. The Bible says her eyes were opened and then she saw she was naked. Then she had shame. I think for young people I say to them, you think that sex is not this big deal, until you have it. Until you have it that first time, then it’s like your eyes are opened and you realize, ‘Oh, my goodness, this was something so special, so divine and I’ve just given it away.’ So you feel all this shame, you feel cheap, you feel damaged and wounded, and it’s no big deal anymore.
Bob: Do you remember feeling remorse, regret, and emptiness after you had your first sexual experience?
Barbara: Yes, I felt a little bit lost and shocked and I felt violated a little bit. I did. But, at the time there are all of these weird emotions. Because, I loved this person, I thought he loved me, we were in this relationship, and I wanted to marry him. I thought he was the one.
So, what happens is, after that relationship broke up, you get into a new relationship and what happens is, now that you’ve opened that pathway, you’re going to have sex even sooner in the next relationship. That’s what happened for me.
Bob: Would you say that first experience for you, you look back on it and say, “I was sexually abused.”?
Barbara: I guess there’s different terminology, I felt like it wasn’t consensual. So, yes it can also be termed as abuse.
Bob: So, when you talk about the process of sexual abuse leading to increased promiscuity, you’re including that broader definition of a non-consensual young woman being pressured by her boyfriend. Maybe she says no, maybe she doesn’t say no, but she isn’t going into this with her whole heart saying, “Let’s do this.”
Barbara: I talk to a lot of women who really do want to save sex for marriage. But yet, they feel like if they don’t have sex, their boyfriend is going to leave them, or if they don’t have sex it creates all kinds of tension. So they’re trying to preserve this relationship. It has a lot to do with emotional intimacy for women too.
Dennis: You actually share in your book about a young lady by the name of Arlene who had her first sexual encounter at the unbelievable age of…
Barbara: Twelve. And, it was with a 15 year old boy in her youth group. He was like a predator with her. He targeted her, but made her feel special, and made her feel older than she was. It was a gradual thing but eventually he trapped her into this sexual relationship. He had her parents tricked. He would say, “I’ll pick your daughter up and take her to youth group,” then take her to somewhere and have sex with her.
So she felt this weird trapping, she felt special but she also knew there was something very wrong about it. This happened when she was twelve-year-old. So, for three years this went on. He broke up with her. Then that led her into this very promiscuous lifestyle when she got into college.
Dennis: I wanted to make a comment about something we just flew by there. That’s the relentless pursuit of a teenage boy. When his sex drive is at its peak, he really can be a predator.
There are some who are listening to you and saying, “Now, wait a second. You sounded like or felt like you were taken advantage of, yet you were a participant.” But if you understand a young man at this age, the nature of his pursuit, if he doesn’t have something, a set of beliefs, spiritual values, a walk with God and Christ that keeps his passion under control, he really can pressure and press and in a predatory manner, pursue a girl to such a point that she’s in a corner.
Bob: Don’t just presume that because he’s going to the youth group, that he has those spiritual convictions.
Dennis: And can be trusted as a result.
Bob: That’s right.
Barbara: Of course, as I mentioned, a lot of young people are doing things and they don’t think they’re having sex. Girls are being pushed to go farther and farther physically, but the guy keeps saying, “Well, we’re not having sex, so you’re fine. You’re still a virgin.”
But, as I’m out speaking to youth groups now, since I’m on the other end and doing the healing piece and helping women and hearing their stories, I’m always talking to the young people and saying, “This may have already happened to you. Maybe you’ve been pressured, or you’re being abused by someone, or molested by someone…” Every time now I just feel the Holy Spirit saying, “You need to talk about this because it’s happening.”
So often we tell our young people, “don’t have sex, don’t have sex,” but we’re forgetting about so many of the young women; their first experience is pressured, or they’ve become a victim or in this case with Arlene and many other women whose stories I share in the book.
Dennis: Let’s go back to Arlene and talk about the impact in Arlene’s marriage as a thirty-year-old woman, she was struggling.
Barbara: Yes, and she loved her husband. They had a great relationship, two children, yet she talks about how she felt like she had this big black rubber band around her heart that was keeping her from giving herself completely to her husband.
It really came down to negative association with sex in the past, how she’d been victimized and how then she had become promiscuous, and shame, regret, but then also because of past wounding, you can’t trust as well, so there’s this lack of trust. Even though you’re in this marriage, you’re supposed to trust this guy, but you’re a little afraid to trust him. She was describing in a great way how many women feel when they get into a marriage.
Bob: So, what you’re describing is: She’s just shutting down any time there’s even a hint of a spark of interest or arousal, something shuts her down?
Barbara: You just don’t even have the desire, so you tend to avoid having sex. Or, if you’re having sex but you’re shut down even emotionally, so your body is there, but you’re not there mentally. But also, it can come up as anger in women.
There’s anger from the past, and you don’t understand why you’re always getting angry at your husband, or kind of going into a rage so there’s different impacts from the past, the wounding.
In fact, that was the first time, at 30 years old—in fact, she might have been 35—when she realized that what had happened to her at 12 years old was abuse. All these years, she had assumed that she was responsible for that; she was to blame because she didn’t stop it, she didn’t tell anyone. So, she had carried that shame, and that blame. That then comes in between the intimacy with your husband too.
Bob: So, how did you counsel her? How did you help her? What did you say to her?
Barbara: The first thing is just the truth. “That was abuse. You were abused and you need healing from that.” I talk to so many women, they don’t understand, they think “Okay that’s in the past; I just need to get over that. Just forget it, just move on.”
That’s the thing I tell them. Because of that wounding, we talked about that verse with sexual sin; it wounds us to the core. We need healing from those wounds; we need to go through a process of allowing the grieving for what’s happened in our past.
When we’re young we have all these dreams of how God’s maybe going to use us, and what’s going to happen in our lives. When those things don’t happen, we deny that we ever even wanted them. We think we didn’t deserve it. We made choices now, so we don’t deserve God to bless us. We need to grieve that. Once they understand and they’re willing to go through the healing process, God takes over and does his amazing work.
Dennis: But, to that point, they have to bring whatever the sexual sin or abuse or experience, whatever it was they have to bring it out into the light. It has to be named.
Barbara: Right. Exactly. That’s the hardest step, just acknowledging your past or acknowledging what’s happened to you. Naming it and acknowledging the choices that you’ve made. That was the beginning step for me. You’ve been dealing with this internally, now it’s time to bring it out and name it, and talk about it, and let me show you how that has wounded you and impacted you. That was the beginning step.
Bob: You may have also been victimized, but at some point, you have to step up and say, I’m not just a victim. But, I’m a participant.
Bob: My own sin is a part of this. Now, when I say that, what I’m acknowledging is that, guess what, you’re like the rest of us. We all bring our package of sin, whatever it looks like, to the same place, to the foot of the cross. So, I’m not saying you have to name your own sin with an eye toward condemnation.
Dennis: Yes, but with this subject, there’s something about it. It’s so private, so sacred, it’s so difficult to name. Even before God, let alone other people. But, you actually with your groups that you lead, you actually name what you did. Would you mind doing that here?
Barbara: My past, do you mean?
Barbara: Yes. I took sex outside of God’s plan, I had sex outside of marriage, and I’ve even had an abortion. I’ve been married before, I’ve been divorced. So, part of the process is just naming that. But, also seeing it from God’s perspective so He can show you the truth. Part of God’s perspective is what I call godly sorrow. Being sorry for it from God’s perspective.
God talks about godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Here was a big light-bulb for me when I realized that for 25 years, I kept all of this a secret, and I was trying to deal with it on my own. I was asking God to forgive me over and over and over again. I kept wondering, why don’t I feel forgiven? Why do I still trigger shame and regret and guilt? God showed me that my repentance in the past had been worldly. It has been about me. I just felt bad for what I’d done, and I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be done with it.
But, God wanted me to experience godly sorrow, see it from His perspective, and show me how I had hurt others, and how I’d hurt him. Part of that process of godly sorrow is what led to real repentance which is what set me free from my shame and my pain. So, part of the exercise we have in the book about acknowledging your past, writing your sexual history list. All gives God an opportunity to show you your sin and what’s happened to you from His perspective so you can have godly sorrow.
Bob: You know, when David writes his Psalm of repentance in Psalm 51, this is David dealing with his own sexual sin. He had violated God’s law, he had seen Bathsheba, he had been immoral with her, and he had had her husband killed. In Psalm 51 he goes to God and he says—and this is amazing—He says, “Against you and you only have I sinned.”
Now, I read that and I go, “Well, hang on David. I think you sinned against Bathsheba, I think you sinned against the nation. There are a lot of people and yet David comes to realize that until I acknowledge that my primary sin was not a sin against another person, it was a sin against God. You haven’t really gotten to repentance until you get to that place. Have you?
Barbara: It’s interesting that you bring up David, because, that was kind of a beginning step for me. When I read about David and his sin, he was a murderer and adulterer, that’s when God said to me, Barb, that’s what you are. You are a murderer, you took your child’s life, and you are an adulterer, you were having sex outside of marriage. Talk about naming it, I remember that was a pivotal thing where I said, “Oh my goodness, I’m a murderer and I’m an adulterer.” Naming my sin.
Another good point you bring out is that what God showed me was how I’d sinned against Him. Here I’d gone to all these guys to validate me, to make me feel special, to make me feel loved. God said, “You never came to Me. I should have been the one that you came to, in order make you feel loved and special. Yet, you took that question, that need to others. In the process, you’ve not only hurt Me, you hurt them, and you’ve hurt yourself.”
Bob: You worshiped idols.
Barbara: Yes, exactly.
Bob: You saw these other guys as the ones who would fill the need that God said He would fill. You went there to worship instead of going to God.
Barbara: Yes. And, that’s a really powerful piece of healing, seeing it from God’s perspective. That’s what we help walk women through. Helping them get to that place.
Dennis: I just feel a need to read this passage that Paul wrote. He said, “Don’t be deceived, neither sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And, such were some of you. But, you were washed you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.”
You know Barbara; I have to believe we’re talking to adulterers, murderers, people who have done all sorts of things who, right now, before they do anything with any other person in terms of asking for forgiveness, or even their own healing with their spouse, who need to receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ. This is why Christ went to the cross. He did this so that his forgiveness could be manifested in our lives if we will but surrender to Him and place our faith in Him as the one who died on the cross for our sins.
I just say to you as a listener right now, if you identify with Barbara, and with what she’s talking about here, or the list I just read from, 1 Corinthians chapter six. You’re realizing you need forgiveness, just like Bob said; you have to do what David did. “Against you, and you only I have sinned, God.” And you confess that sin, and you come to God and you ask Jesus Christ to become your lord, your master, your savior, your redeemer. You know what, it’s not a spiritual equation; this is a relationship with Almighty God through the person of Christ.
I just encourage you right now, don’t let another five minutes pass without knowing you’ve received forgiveness, grace, and that redemption that Christ came to offer. There are a lot of people who are playing church today in American Christianity. People going to church who need to make a relationship with Christ their priority. This is where it begins, with a surrender to Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Bob: I’m wondering about those who are listening today who heard Barbara name her sin, abortion is murder, promiscuity is adultery or fornication, and those words have pierced them, the Spirit of God has taken those words and said, like Nathan said to David, “You are the man.” Maybe it has brought a brokenness to their lives that was not there before, and they feel bad. You start to feel bad and what you want to do is stop feeling bad. It may be that you need to go ahead and feel bad for a while in order to eventually be healed. Rather than running from the pain, step into it and weep and grieve.
Dennis: And, let the pain press you against the cross of Christ.
Bob: That’s right, to take you there. I would just encourage a listener, if you don’t know Jesus, if you don’t have a vital relationship with Him, where through prayer and through His word, and through the fellowship of others, you’re connected with Him each day.
You may need to get a copy of a book that we’d love to send you for free. A book called Pursuing God: A Seeker’s Guide. It’s a book that explains to you how to become a disciple of Christ, how to become a follower of Jesus.
If you’d like a copy of the book, if you don’t know Christ, and you’d like to find out what it means to know him, call 1-800-FL-TODAY, get a copy of the book Pursuing God, we’ll send it out to you and our prayer is that this book will be a tool that God will use to lead you into the kind of relationship with Him that brings forgiveness, and transformation and hope to your life.
If you do know Christ, but as we’ve talked today about a past of sexual sin, you find yourself broken as we’ve talked about. Call to get a copy of Barbara Wilson’s book. Or, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. The book is called, Kiss Me Again. It lays out a path for dealing with the brokenness that comes from a past of sexual sin.
Again, the title of the book is Kiss Me Again. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out how you can get a copy. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call, 1-800-FL-TODAY. 1-800-358-6329, that’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us, we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Barbara’s book sent to you.
Let me, by the way, say thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You make it possible for us, not only to be on this station, but for us to respond to folks who will call us today and say, “I want to know what it means to be a Christian.” Thank you for helping provide the funds necessary so that we can respond to those folks, and send out literature and make this daily radio program available, and make our website, FamilyLifeToday.com available. We appreciate your partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
In fact, this month if you’re able to help with a donation of any amount, we’d like to say thank you by sending you a copy of a book by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A. He wrote a book called It’s Better To Build Boys, Than Mend Men. It’s a great book on raising sons to be godly young men. It’s our gift to you when you support FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount. If you make that donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, type the word “BOYS” in the key-code box on the online donation form, and we’ll send you a copy of Truett’s book. Or, call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, you can make your donation over the phone and just ask for the book on building boys and we’ll send it to you. Thanks again for helping to support this ministry.
Be sure to join us back tomorrow when Barbara Wilson is going to be with us again. We’re going to continue to talk about how we can address issues from our past and heal relationships in our present today that have been marred by past choices. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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