So many women–and many men as well–honestly feel like the church is hurting them.
I do not believe that it is Jesus that is hurting them, but the things that the church teaches, especially around sex and marriage, do cause harm. Our surveys have shown that definitively. Our interpretations of what sex is supposed to be too often leave women feeling erased and used, as if it is God who is telling us, “your needs don’t matter.”
That is such an awful feeling.
I like to give myself Tuesdays to work on big projects, so I don’t like to write big posts. But a comment came in yesterday that I did want to share, because I thought it was really well done.
The context of this was last week’s post, where I was saying that, if women have been hurt by believing bad teachings, or if men have believed those teachings and hurt their wives in return, then a good idea is to take a fast from sex for him and make it entirely about her for a while and go at her pace so she learns to associate sex with something that is for her.
Some were pushing back in the comments, saying that was too much to ask of men.
That’s where commenter Rising Strong piped in:
As I thought about the false and oppressive teachings about marriage and sex that Sheila and her team work tirelessly to combat, the Spirit gave me a word picture. Here goes:
As Christians, we agree that Jesus should be the very air we breathe. We are each connected to Him by our own personal “air hose.” Men and women alike are offered full, free access to His abundantly grace-ridden air when we decide to connect to Him through the Gospel.
But teachings—particularly those about marriage and sex—that reduce women and elevate men are like huge, heavy cement blocks being placed on a woman’s air hose.
Over time, the woman connected to Jesus via the blocked air hose cannot breathe Him in any longer, not His pure flowing air, anyway. She is left gasping.
One day, when enough false teachings have encumbered her air hose and she has simultaneously run her hardest to follow all the rules in order to “better love and connect to Jesus,” she finds herself LIFELESS. She literally cannot go another step or take another breath because nothing is flowing into her air hose. It has become fully compromised by cement block teachings, yet she doesn’t understand what has happened. She doesn’t yet see the cement blocks. They have become her norm.
All she knows is that she has worked so hard to please her husband (ie—“the lord”) in every. possible. way. Why doesn’t she feel free? What’s more, why does she feel as though she continually fails in her marriage?
Somehow, she learns about The Great Sex Rescue and its healthy, balanced, research-based, God-honoring teachings, and slowly but surely, she feels Jesus-air filling her lungs again. She has missed this air so very much. Life begins running through her entire body little by little as she ponders, reflects, and begins to realize what has happened.
She now notices and realizes she needs to work hard to remove the enormously heavy cement blocks, but when she tries to do so, she is called “disobedient,” “selfish,” “disrespectful,” “unsubmissive,” and worse by prominent Christian leaders, authors, and teachers.
People who say they love Jesus just keep replacing the cement blocks she works so hard to remove from her air hose, and they toss on a few (thousand) more for good measure.
When she tells them to stop because these teachings are sucking the very air from her body, they tell her she is asking too much, that she is swinging the pendulum too far, that she can’t possibly love Jesus AND believe this “heresy.” Allowing cement blocks on your air hose is “respecting and serving your husband,” and besides, suffering for Jesus is part of the Christian life.
When she screams in desperation—because she is dying from the inside out—she is called “untrusting,” “faithless,” and even “angry.” If she legitimately becomes angry—and she should given the reality of the oppression sitting on her air hose—she is called a “feminist who has no place for Jesus in her belief system.”
Essentially, she gets beaten down and her air hose is again compromised simply because she is REMOVING CEMENT BLOCKS SO THAT SHE CAN BREATHE MORE FREELY.
Here’s the truth:
Women have God-ordained access to the Gospel and are called to apply it to everything in our lives, including to our marriages.
We are recipients—heirs— of the gift of breathing the free-flowing grace-air of Christ in our individual lives AND in our marriages.
When those around us attempt to put cement blocks on our air hoses, they are interfering with God’s Gospel work in women’s lives.
From this vantage point, if a husband has contributed to robbing his wife of air for any length of time, I daresay him giving up sex long enough to let his wife “refill her lungs” is a minute offering, at the barest minimum.
If fasting temporarily from sex enables his wife to receive the unadulterated love and grace of Christ in her life, then how could any truly loving husband even consider NOT doing it?
Do you feel like someone is stepping on your air hose?
It’s okay to want to breathe. Jesus came to set the captives free, and that includes you. It does.
In church this past Sunday, the pastor was talking about what I’ll call an upside-down Lent.
Usually for Lent people give up something–chocolate; TV; video games; alcohol. But he was saying that over the last two years we’ve all given up a lot. Maybe this year we need to look at how we can share joy, and reach out to others.
That thought stayed with me and it jived with something I’d already been thinking about for Lent for myself this year: instead of giving up, I want to start caring for myself more. I haven’t been taking good care of myself. I haven’t been doing the stretches I need to do; I haven’t been doing other self-care things I need to do.
And God does love me so much–maybe Lent is a time that I start loving myself too.
Perhaps Lent could be the time that you figure out who, or what, is stepping on your air hose.
Good Friday is coming, and then Easter. There is new life, and rebirth. But perhaps this year God is calling you to an even bigger rebirth. Maybe He’s been nudging you for quite a while that something is hurting you, is holding you back. It could be your family; your church; your job; your group of friends. In some cases it could even be an abusive marriage. And God wants you to have life and have it abundantly.
I don’t mean giving up responsibilities or living a hedonistic life simply focused on your own pleasure. I mean getting set free to live life as God intended so that you can serve God as He intended. We cannot serve; we cannot do the works that He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), if we are constantly being hurt and minimized and erased by others.
So I invite you in this Lenten season to join with me in caring for yourself better, as God cares for you.
Is someone stepping on your air hose? Is someone chastising you for trying to breathe? That is a sign that that relationship, that church, that group is not healthy.
Maybe take this season to pray about what you will do about that.
Because it’s okay to want to breathe.
At different times in my life I have had someone stepping on my air hose. I eventually needed the courage to stand up and refuse to let them. Have you ever gone through this? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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