Before I I knew about sex.
Many people’s earliest childhood memories involve playing games with their parents, going to an amusement park for the first time, or being taught how to read. Something sweet like that. And yes, I have some of them, but the most vivid early childhood memories… they don’t involve sugar and spice and everything nice.
Before I could write my name. Before I stopped peeing in the bed… Before I knew how to tie my shoe… I remember being taught how to please a person sexually.
Grooming & Godliness
I remember being taken in the closet by an older boy and having him tell me to take my shirt off and kiss him places at 3 or 4 years old. I remember being forced to allow a boy to dry hump me and rub his genitals on me at 5 or 6 years old in front of a small crowd of older kids as they laughed and cheered on… telling me that they wouldn’t be my friends unless I let him do those things to me. Looking back I also realize that it was older girls from church, and other trusted places that introduced me to orgies at 5 years old.
It wasn’t until 16 that I realized that I didn’t have to do everything that a woman wanted me to do to her… that it was ok that I wasn’t attracted to girls and that I could say “no.” Sixteen! And I remember that day because it was the first time that I felt like I had power! I remember saying to myself, “ok, well this is what we’re about to do because I’ve always done it..” … and then I heard a voice say, “It’s ok, Sharona. You don’t have to do this.” I paused. I was confused. Where did the voice come from? And then it echoed inside the chambers of my heart again. “Sharona, you can say no. It’s ok that you don’t like this.”
And I stopped. I stopped right there. It was the first time that I felt that I had a choice for real… that it was ok for me not to like what so many older girls or women had been training me to do for almost my entire life. It was the first time that I felt like I could admit to myself that I didn’t enjoy it. I’ll never forget how invigorating that moment was.
And I never did anything else with a woman because I never wanted to, but I was still trained. I mean just this year I looked back and understood that the older man who my Mom trusted to watch me taught me that moaning when a man touched you was a sign of respect and appreciation. Just this year… just THIS year, through counseling, I’ve accepted that the reoccurring “dreams” I’ve had about a trusted man in my life aren’t dreams. They’re memories.
And they’re so many of them… so many memories. Memories that begin before many of the church people who have judged me and others even mastered the differentiation between b’s and d’s in writing the alphabet.
I was trained… trained and programmed to love sinful sexual expression and worship. I knew about sex before I could put my hair in a good ponytail… along with John 3:16 and Phil 4:13. Scriptures and sexual sin went hand in hand.
“Just Stop It,” They Say!
But I get it. God hates fornication and adultery and all kinds of sin. I understand that the pure in heart shall see God. But sometimes… just sometimes I’ve wished that people could take a few steps in my shoes to consider what it might be like to be introduced to sex before lust was even a part of my heart.
The same things I’m celebrated for: public speaking, singing, writing, mentorship, a love for scripture, and leadership… those were all instilled in me by a god-fearing mother who also had no idea that I had other teachers who were teaching me as well. Alongside that godly training I was taught to keep secrets, cover my emotions, touch a man (and woman) a certain way to make him (her) feel good, moan and show appreciation for sexual acts, and to tell my mind and body to enjoy the process of it all. And I mastered almost everything I was taught in my foundational years…
And so I’ve struggled. I’ve struggled because I love God and I want to honor him, but undoing this training has been the most ferocious battle of my life. I’ve struggled because what I thought were dreams I’ve had to recognize as memories. Because when I meet with mentors they equate my love for God to my sexual purity only and ask about my sex life more than they ask about how I’m getting victory over my past…. Because people don’t understand that setting up boundaries does help me not to commit certain outward acts, but still leaves my heart just as broken and dirty if I don’t deal with the real issues…. Because my love for God has been ranked by how many times I’ve fallen in a year as opposed to how much progress I’ve made. Because if I “really loved God” then I would just overcome this. If I “really had the Spirit of God” I wouldn’t fall anymore. Because it’s hard to celebrate any accomplishment of purity when I’m too acquainted with the feeling of failure and so, even in victory, I’m scared of the possible pending looks of disappointment if I fail in the future… so I don’t even want to tell people when I’ve done well. Because I’ve seen how certain people distance themselves from you when you’ve “fallen from grace.” Just look at their timelines when other ministers fall…
But I can love God and still have things to work on, and that’s hard for me to accept at times because I, along with some church people, can be more forgiving of sins like gossipping or laziness (sloth) than sexual ones. There are no articles written about the praise and worship leader or pastor who is caught in a 3 year sin cycle of gossipping and causing dissention.
Learning to Celebrate
But I can’t stop fighting when God has been so faithful and so near. I’ve made so much progress as it relates to sexual sin (lust, fornication, pornography, etc). God has broken so many sinful habits that the 5 year old girl just thought were regular occurrences… like attending church. He has given me victory in so many areas… and I’m learning to celebrate them as they come.
I’m learning to celebrate the fact that I no longer call my memories “dreams” and that I’ve finally been able to set up boundaries with people who have hurt me. I’m learning to celebrate the fact that I’m a survivor of the pain and that it’s not my fault. I’m learning to celebrate the fact that God has given me a higher sex drive than some and that if I ever get married, enjoying my husband won’t be an issue like many women I know. I’m learning to celebrate the fact that I still can love people even though I’ve been hurt by so many of them. And I’m learning to embrace the fact that although I’m an utter mess, God has still called me and still chooses to use me for his kingdom work.
And, y’all. I’m not the same 3 year old girl I used to be. I’m not the same 16 year old. I’m not even the same woman I was at 22 or 23. And when I turn 30 I won’t be the same woman I am now. And I’m trusting that He’ll make me ready for when He returns…
But I thank God for my tribe now. I thank God for my church and people who are patient with me while still calling me out. I’m in a church where I’ve received deliverance in certain areas while still being covered in love.
You see, I’ve been in churches where certain sins were just covered up and I’ve also been a member of churches where I felt like they just wanted me to expose myself in the name of community and accountability…without them being properly equipped with the ability to walk me through my actual issues. That just didn’t work for me personally. I’ve just wanted to be covered in love… a love that isn’t expressed in showing sexual appreciation and/or secrets OR in consistently battering me about a sin issue that is mostly an expression of deeper issues that their leadership wasn’t equipped to handle or even see in me.
And I thank God for his grace… and I want you to be encouraged by it too! I thank God that He’s enough and that He sees our journeys and celebrates the sanctification taking place by His Spirit. I am grateful that He shows us favor and gives us insight even though He sees our mess… that He actually wants us and uses our process to bless others.
I trust Him to complete the good work that He’s begun in me (and in you) even though there’s so much to do. And more than anything, I’m trusting the power His love that is undoing the works of a shaky foundation.
I don’t know how long it will take for me to walk in “complete victory” as some people might count victory, but I say that for today… for where I’ve come from… this is what victory looks like. And If God can say that Day 3 of creation was good, even though it wasn’t complete, then I can definitely say that I’m in a good place too.
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