Engage

What Happens in the Dark Shouldn’t Stay in the Dark

Jonathan Safran Foer, a Jewish New Yorker in his twenties, collected memories of his family—photos, cards, false teeth, handfuls of dirt—all sealed in individual plastic bags and mounted on a wall. Eager to know more about his family roots after the death of his grandparents, Jonathan embarks on an elusive quest to Ukraine, specifically to explore what happened to them during World War II.

Jonathan Safran Foer, a Jewish New Yorker in his twenties, collected memories of his family—photos, cards, false teeth, handfuls of dirt—all sealed in individual plastic bags and mounted on a wall. Eager to know more about his family roots after the death of his grandparents, Jonathan embarks on an elusive quest to Ukraine, specifically to explore what happened to them during World War II.

Through a series of mishaps and adventures, he locates a relative in the Ukrainian countryside. Now elderly, she lives alone in a tiny house barely visible, surrounded by fields of sunflowers nearly as tall as the house. She asks Jonathan, “Tell me, is the war over then?” For nearly sixty years she’s been hiding in that sunflower field.

Hiding can be harmful. Think of an oozing wound on your arm. Instead of inspecting it carefully, treating it with antibiotic, and leaving it exposed to the air to heal, you simply slap a Sesame Street Band-Aid on it and go your way. My husband tells the story of his great-grandmother’s unnecessary death. While she was shelling green beans, a piece lodged deep in her fingernail bed. Busy and distracted, she ignored the injury. Soon infection festered but she continued to disregard red streaks and swelling. Ultimately toxicity spread, and killed her.

Hiding sin kills too.

Many churches create an ethos conducive to hiding sin, a practice we believe ultimately makes the church vulnerable to more—not less—sin, especially sexual sin. It has become the sin above all sins—horrible, abominable, appalling, beastly, detestable, heinous, shameful—and unspeakable, the one sin that we hide at all costs, the one sin we don’t share with our spouse or best friend. It is the taboo subject. We don’t teach or preach about it. Leaders don’t admit they struggle—and what stays in the dark has a secret place to grow, the perfect incubator.

When we hear about couples who leave the church to divorce without ever asking for help, we wonder why. Yet, we know how easy it is to hide behind a mask of spirituality. Will people at church accept, understand, and aid us when we confess our sin to one another—especially if we are leaders? We are embarrassed, afraid, proud.

Often, our willingness to confess depends on the sin. Sins on the “approved list” are easy to tell—selfishness, pride, anger, even general lust—but it’s dangerous to confess sins on the black list. Specific sexual sins rank high there: habitually savoring a forbidden sexual fantasy in your mind, deliberately pursuing a risky relationship with a married member of your small group or work, surfing for pornography hits in the middle of the night.

Jesus’ hands are eager to embrace sinners bound in sexual sin. Jesus loved sinners with sibling love. He had mercy on them. He did not condone their sinful acts or attitudes. He did not wash away the consequences of their sin. He demanded they change. But he did so in a way that was respectful and not demeaning. He loved them like a sibling and helped them to see themselves that way. His magnetic love compelled them, calling them into the light.

Have you ever part of a ministry where people were open about sexual temptation? What do you think might result if people were more open about these struggles? Is the place where you minister conducive to honest confession or wearing masks? We would love to hear from you.

0
Sue Edwards

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.

2 Comments

  • Avatar

    Ronica

    Involve in an uneasy relationship
    i need help i do confess i have sin tiredlessly sometimes its against my will most times i feel deep within everytimes i do stuffs that are sinful i can feel the saddness within. i want to be free i want to once again become a renewed person in christ but I need help. I remember when i use to do bible study and got more involve his gods teaching i look at life differently i lost interest within things that detour me from god and now i feel like i want to get back on track. There are some people in life who are more determined to make living life difficult but i know for sure when i get down on my knees and i pray and ask god for guidance within a few minutes or so i feel so refresh. I need god in my life more than ever i need him every waking hour.
    i also need to descipline my self

    0
    • Avatar

      Sue Edwards

      Jesus can help
      Dear Friend,I remember being burdened with sin before I became Christ’s child, and it was excruciating. Read Psalms 51, 32, and 103 to see David’s wrestling with his own sin and how God ministered to Him. I can promise that Jesus will do the same for you IF you let Him. But He is a gentleman and won’t force you. Find a good Bible teaching church that is not only focused on emotion but also on solid Bible teaching and walking with the Lord. Find a counselor there. Or attend a women’s Bible study and find a mentor who will encourage you and hold you accountable. We were not meant to live this life alone. And you might also want to read Kelley and my book Mixed Ministry to learn boundaries and see how Jesus loved women but also called them to a life that pleased Him and brought them joy. That’s what Jesus wants for you. Life can be different!

      0