When I Went from Anonymity to Transparency

The Christian Marriage Bloggers Association, of which I’m a member, has a monthly blog challenge from time to time. For the month of October, the challenge is to write a post related to a specific picture:

cmba-blog-challenge-pic-october-2016

Isn’t that beautiful? The photo was taken by Kate Aldrich Photography. Kate and her husband Brad are also members of CMBA and blog at One Flesh Marriage.

Looking at that picture, I considered several possible topics: the exclusivity of marriage,  private moments between husband and wife, the importance of flirting, the lyrics to “Singin’ in the Rain”… But what kept coming back to me is that photo represents who my husband and I were for about three years on this blog.

When I began writing Hot, Holy & Humorous in December 2010, I was anonymous. Just “J.” No last name, no picture, no identifiers about where I lived, no information about my kids. I had several reasons for starting out this way. Among them:

♦  My kids were young, and — while I was talking to them about sex in age-appropriate ways — I didn’t want my writing about sex to come back around to them in any way. I wasn’t sure how this ministry would go, and I thought if others knew I was writing about sex, it could be mentioned in front of my kids in awkward ways. My kids were a priority.

♦  My family and friends didn’t know the whole story. Since I was sharing pretty freely on my blog about my personal testimony, I didn’t know whether such information could get back to them. And I wasn’t ready to share how much I’d screwed up before marriage or how hard my marriage had been in the past.

♦  It gave me the freedom to talk more openly. At least that’s how I felt at the time — that not having to reveal exactly who I was allowed me to reveal a lot of why and how I was. That is, I could talk about why I thought sexual intimacy was so important, why wives needed to figure out this aspect of their marriage, how we can pursue God’s better design, and exactly how to make love (that is, specific tips).

♦  It gave me the freedom to fail. I didn’t think about this consciously, but looking back my choice to write anonymously allowed me to risk more. Not having my name and face attached to the website meant that, if the whole idea crashed and burned, I could quietly fold and walk away. But that also meant I might as well give it my all and see what happened, because my name wasn’t on it anyway.

At some point, these issues resolved. So I ripped off the anonymity mask and revealed me.

And some odd things happened. Odd things with great takeaways.

♦  Not only did friends and family not disapprove of me writing about sex, they supported me. There was a “good for you” attitude as people found out.

Indeed, one of the best takeaways has been that the older churchgoers, whom I looked up to and expected would judge me harshly for talking so openly about something considered too private in their generation to discuss … yeah, they’re the most supportive. I kid you not. The “little old ladies” I come across will grab my arm and say how proud they are of me. They’ve been around long enough to have heard just about everything, and they have the wisdom to recognize the importance of sex in marriage and the need for a biblical perspective.

Perhaps you speaking up about sex would be welcomed. Yes, there are naysayers. There always are. But what if you championed the need for godly sex discussions in your church? The response might be more positive than you anticipated.

You don’t have to talk about sex as much as I do or reveal anything personal. You could simply offer to lead a small group study based on Intimacy Revealed, bring Sheila Gregoire’s Girl Talk to your church, or facilitate an Awaken-Love video class. You might discover, as I did, that people recognize the need and are glad someone is speaking up.

♦  My transparency beget others’ transparency. Once people knew I had spoken up about this subject, they spoke up too. People became more open with me about their own struggles, or people they knew who were struggling, or their own testimonies of how God worked in this area of their lives. I even received questions about particular situations and was happy to be a resource for those I know and love.

Putting myself out there freed others to do the same. There was this sense of relief that we could just be honest and say, “This sex stuff isn’t always easy.” But my story and my ministry conveyed that there are answers. And that was a hopeful message.

Maybe being transparent would help others become transparent too. It’s quite possible we’ve manufactured this worry that we’ll be left dangling out there alone if we tell our story. As if revealing something personal about ourselves will make the whole room of fellow believers shut down.

Yet admitting where we struggle, and sharing our stories of coming through hardship to victory, often opens up hearts and minds. Ephesians 4:25 says, “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another” (NRSV). We might end up paving the way for more honesty in our churches and friendships. And from there, help one another to become more godly in our lives and our marriages.

♦  I got to interact more with my readers. Once I revealed myself, I got to reveal even more about myself. I posted pictures on Facebook, shared specific things going on in my life, and felt a greater sense of community with Hot, Holy & Humorous followers.

I’ve always believed in the importance of community to one’s individual faith. Yes, I know some churches have damaged their members in various ways (and if you’ve had that kind of experience, I’m so sorry). However, we were never meant to walk this journey alone. From the moment God said to Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), to the angel declaring, “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus,” in Revelation 2:10, it’s clear we are supposed to be walking in faith with others. We should seek out encouragement and opportunities to serve fellow believers.

Opening yourself up can build a community of faith. Too often, people in churches are privately hurting, feel that no one cares, and eventually duck out the door — with disappointment or even despair that others were not there for them. But when churches I’ve attended knew what was going on, most truly wanted to help. Indeed, if you share with one person and their response is not helpful, go to someone else. Seek out fellow Christians who walk alongside you and support you in your faith and your marriage.

We’re called to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). So share your joys and your sorrows. Be open, and let others be open with you. Every best friend I have is someone I can talk to about matters of faith, and they are for me, for my marriage, for my relationship with God. I’m thrilled that so many of my readers take that same approach toward me — as I do with them.

How transparent are you with fellow believers? What positive effects does transparency have among Christians?

9 thoughts on “When I Went from Anonymity to Transparency

  1. Ruth

    Thank you for this. It is time for the church to start talking…. it is time for all of us to start talking. God’s healing and work in our sexuality is part of our testimony and others need to hear it. Thank you for all that you do.

    Reply
  2. Andy

    Love this article.

    I’ve often wondered how sharing part of my own journey could help others. It isn’t something I go round telling people – without exercising prayer and wisdom – and I don’t feel it is something I’m called to personally blog about, but, where it becomes relavent I have shared about the sexual abuse I suffered, as a son, by my mother.

    Like I say, it isn’t something I feel I need to actively share with others, but I have shared it as and when I felt prompted to by the Holy Spirit and t his has enabled others, especially other men, to open up about the abuse they suffered (are suffering) within a marriage, for example.

    I hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason” but I absolutely believe that, with God, nothing is west e d for the glory of God.

    I honestly believe that my transparacy, now that part of my life is mastered by Christ within me and no longer makes me feel shame, is helpful for others.

    Our transparency and honesty can really open others up to allowing God to begin to set them free of their own shame; knowing others have experienced something painful too can be a powerful thing all by itself.

    As for me, I still don’t feel it is something I should activatly talk about, but it is something, especially after my 6 months of CBT PTSD, that I now ‘own’.

    It made me part of who I am.

    God turned that around and that is certainly something worth sharing – the amazing and forgiving and liberating and life changing power of the Holy Spirit at work in us; nothing is beyond His love and redemption.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I agree with you. I don’t think God wants sexual abuse to happen to anyone, ever! But He can guide us through and use our pain and healing to help others. May He continue to comfort you!

      Reply
  3. Chris

    I’m so glad you’ve become transparent. When I began blogging, though, I was grateful for your anonymity. Seeing you write anonymously helped give me courage to give blogging a try at a time when I wasn’t ready to reveal my identity, either.

    I’m happy to see you on this side of the umbrella now. 🙂

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I don’t think I would have stepped out so boldly if not for my anonymity at first. But I did always have in mind that someday — eventually — my face and name would be out there. Thanks, Chris!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Marriage Ministry Matters ~ October 2016

  5. Bobthemusicguy

    I’m wary of not being anonymous. Some of my past, both what I’ve done and what was done to me, is really unpleasant to share in more than a very general way. I’ve been more open to a few individuals, and it has seemed to help them. It also helped me to release it some more. And each time I’ve been able to be a bit more open.

    It wasn’t until after nearly 17 years of marriage that I was able to share with my wife about how I had been abused as a boy. Even now, it is very painful to relive in my mind when I do talk or write about it. And when I wrote about it in a letter to someone who needed to know, I was betrayed and the information went to others who had no need to know.

    People sometimes say that time heals all wounds. Not true. Only the grace of God can do that. I’m at a point where I can be non-anonymous (if that is a word) with some people and up to a point. There are some things that will be between God and me only this side of eternity.

    I really appreciate you, J, and others like you who share so much with us. It is really encouraging, and your blog and others like it have helped me to be more open and honest, even with myself. I hope that God will use me and my pain and sorrow, and His healing of them, to help others find His will and His peace.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I dated a guy who was sexually molested as a child too. And I think it happens more often than we consider, because women are more likely to share their experiences while men tend to keep that information to themselves. But I’m sure your story and wisdom would help someone. I pray that God helps you discern when to speak up. Blessings!

      Reply
  6. Sheila Gregoire

    Still love the night we took a picture together, and you hesitated before saying I could put it up on Facebook! Glad I could be part of your “coming out”. 🙂 It is better on this side. And it is amazing how many people really AREN’T judgmental about it. I think that whole idea that “The Christian church is afraid of sex” is really just not true. I honestly haven’t found it. I’ve found lots of people who believe that the church is uptight–but very few who actually think the church should be. And yet that feeling–that belief that the church is uptight–causes us to change our own behaviour and not speak up on certain things. What if that feeling were actually wrong? What if we’ve been staying silent for the wrong reasons?

    Reply

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