Sometimes I feel like I’m writing into the void.
I sit in my comfy yellow chair in my living room, and I just write what I’m thinking about, or what Rebecca and I have been talking about on walks, or what Keith and I have been discussing.
I know people read because we get comments, but I don’t actually “know” those people. I go grocery shopping and I very, very rarely see anyone who comments on what I write. Only a few people at my church know what I do. In real life, there’s little cross over with what I do.
Sometimes, then, you wonder how many are actually listening.
I’m just back from a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Keith and I were taking a cruise from Auckland to Sydney, and in 6 different cities I met up with people–Auckland, Napier, Christchurch, Wellington, Melbourne, and Sydney. I had sent out emails to people on my list who lived in the area (make sure you’re signed up to hear if I’m ever going to be in your area!), and we had put it up on social media, and it was actually really fun!
It was just lovely to meet people of all walks of life, most of whom didn’t know each other, who follow me. In several of the cities it looks like some efforts may be made to keep the group going and meet again, because many people feel a little lost in their church communities.
In Melbourne I heard about a woman who heard me on Devi Abraham’s Where Do We Go From Here podcast, and starting weeping as I talked about how the Christian marriage books had set her up for failure. She talked to one of the female pastors on staff at her church, and they began devouring all my resources. They now have a private podcast for their church talking about sex, and they’re educating other churches in their denomination. It was an amazing story!
At the end of one meet up, I had a woman hold my hands and look me right in the eye and tell me, “you need to know you changed my life. I pray for you daily because the world needs what you have to say.”
That was just a very humbling experience that I wasn’t expecting.
Someone left a comment on the blog over the last few days, and it was very similar to what I heard, over and over:
Sheila, I first heard an interview you and Rebecca did on Preston Sprinkle’s podcast a year ago. My sister forwarded it to me. I had never heard of you and your work. That interview blew up my world. In the best way possible. Since then I’ve read “She Deserves Better” and am in the middle of “The Great Sex Rescue.” My husband and I have devoured your podcasts.
And I want to say thank you. Those two words hold more weight and meaning than I can express in a short, typed comment response. To say your work has transformed my life sounds cliched, and yet it is simply true. Your passion to bring light to the dark places the church has taught about women and men and marriage is refreshingly gut-wrenching, stunningly sacred, and incredibly vital to the life and health of marriages.
I had no idea that the books my husband and I read (Emerson Eggerich’s, Shaunti Feldman’s, etc) and the teaching of Purity Culture was so damaging until I started listening to you. I began experiencing a freedom I never knew was possible. It was like all these insidious lies that were planted inside me were finally brought to the surface and exposed for what they were – abusive, toxic teachings that take agency and consent and freedom away from women…. and destroy true intimacy in marriage and sex.
Once those lies were exposed, I could deal with them out in the open with the information and facts I now had, thanks to your team’s work. Although there has been devastating and painful consequences in our marriage because of the teachings we believed, I can honestly say that it doesn’t take much of a degree shift to begin seeing beautiful growth in the right direction. There is grief because of the years we’ve lost, but there is also real hope that our future is bright and flourishing.
So thank you — to you, your daughter, Rebecca, your husband. My husband and I are living proof that your work matters. It is not hyperbole to say you helped save our marriage. We’re deeply grateful. We decided to give financially to your work this year because I can’t think of a more worthy mission.
I wasn’t prepared for all the testimonies like these.
I talked with one very young woman in New Zealand who had been a victim of clergy sexual abuse–and had been the one blamed for it. I helped her see that it was abuse and that it wasn’t her fault.
In Christchurch, we were all sitting around a table at a cafe, and as I listened to everyone’s stories, I realized that for the people there at least, Great Sex Rescue had been the line in the sand in their marriage. Either it brought them closer together and finally they were able to get over some big hurdles, or it helped women in abusive marriages realize things were never going to change, and they left. And they’re so much happier now.
We also had two couples who belong to our Patreon at that event, and that was neat!
In fact, over the course of the meetups I managed to meet many of our Patreons who have been giving through that medium and who have been active in our Facebook group, and that was a treat. One gave me some great business advice and one even arranged the meet-up in Melbourne for me!
I would get back from the events and just be quiet, often for the rest of the afternoon.
It’s strange, but I just wasn’t expecting to hear the depth of people’s stories, and to realize how much my books had impacted people. It was hard to process, even with Keith.
And I guess I just wanted to say how grateful I am for the encouragement that so many of you send me, and how grateful I am that I can do this work, but also how humbled I am. I feel so much like I’m often just flying by the seat of my pants, so to speak. I hope things resonate, but I’m not always sure they will. And it can get so discouraging reading people’s emails, people who are seriously desperate.
So to see so many on the other side, who are happy and thriving, was just wonderful.
In Sydney I had a super cool experience. A woman was standing there with her baby, and she told me that she found me years ago when she was dating a guy, and read my article on red flags in dating (I’m not even sure what article that may have been–perhaps this one?). Anyway, after reading it she broke up with that boyfriend, and soon met her new husband, and now has a lovely little one. And that was really neat!
And here’s an early one from Auckland, before most people arrived!
One of the things that came up at each stop was the over-sized influence of American evangelicalism.
It turns out that the marriages in New Zealand and Australia are actually healthier than American marriages, according to our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue. In fact, Canada and the UK score better than the U.S. as well.
And yet it is largely American evangelical marriage books that have made their way into these other countries and really done some damage (all mentioned the disastrous effects of Love & Respect, or even The Act of Marriage).
So we talked about what we can do to elevate UK and Australian and New Zealand voices, and I’m thinking of that for the podcast, too, and have great contacts!
I think we’d all be better off–Americans too!–if we listened to voices doing some great work in other places, and so many mentioned appreciating my podcast with Terran Williams (from South Africa) recently too.
I was sick most of the trip.
I started off with a viral pneumonia, and for the first week and a half was still not feeling that well. By the end of the cruise I was a little better. I told my girls I felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel and I was going to Bath to recuperate. But Keith had an amazing time birding. He was hoping to see 30-40 new species and he got to 72–thanks partially to another fan who took him out in Melbourne! (You can follow his bird pictures on Instagram!)
I’m glad to be home, but still jetlagged. But I’ll be processing the trip for quite some time, and I’m glad Christmas is coming to give me time to really sit with what so many people told me. It was precious, and I’m grateful.