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:
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?