Cleansing the Soul
About the Guest
Is shame, guilt, and regret over past sexual sin affecting your relationship with your husband? Barbara Wilson talks about restoring sexual intimacy in marriage.
Barbara WilsonBarbara Wilson is the abstinence educator and director for faith-based Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Sacramento, California. She has written several curricula, and her messages on abstinence and sexual bonding are heard by approximately two thousand adults and teens per year. Barbara’s monthly newsletter, PURE IMPACT, equips and informs teens, parents, and youth workers with the latest facts and trends among teens regarding sex and relationships. She and her husband, Eric have four...more
Is shame, guilt, and regret over past sexual sin affecting your relationship with your husband?
Cleansing the Soul
Bob: Most people who look back on a past that includes sexual sin, simply try to stuff down or repress the memory of those activities. Barbara Wilson says there is a different path you ought to look at taking, a path that leads to freedom.
Barbara: The most important part of this whole journey is it draws you closer to God and gives you greater intimacy and trust in God. If you have been hurt in your past sometimes we wonder “Well where was God in all of this? Why did He allow this to happen?”
So first, trust needs to be restored with God and as you trust Him in this journey, then when He starts saying to you, “Now I want you to tell your husband,” at first you might be going, “There’s no way!” But once you trust God, and you see some of the impact of His healing, you’re willing to say yes.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. Today, Barbara Wilson points us to the path that leads to freedom, and to restoring lost intimacy in marriage when there’s been a background of sexual sin.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You’ve seen the same statistics that I’ve seen that say that those couples that are involved in faithful, monogamous sex in a marriage relationship, those who are regular church attendees who profess to be Christians; they’re having the highest levels of marital satisfaction in their sexual relationship.
Bob: But you’ve also seen the mail that we get here from people who would say, “I’m
frustrated,” either, “my husband does not have the desire that I thought he would have,” and that’s been an increasing issue for us that we’ve seen here at FamilyLife, or there’s adultery going on in a relationship or just there’s frustration; “Our relationship isn’t working well in the sexual arena. How do we get help for that?”
Dennis: Yes, and I think, Bob, many folks today are divorcing the past from the present, and they don’t realize how they’re carrying about within them the consequences of past choices and they also don’t realize there’s help and hope.
We have a guest with us here on FamilyLife Today, Barbara Wilson, who joins us again to talk about this really important subject in this sexually promotional and abusive culture that we’re in. Barbara, welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you, great to be here!
Dennis: Barbara is an author of a number of books, including the one we’re talking about, Kiss Me Again. She lives in Sacramento, been married to Eric, her husband, since 1981, and we’re really talking about how you can restore intimacy in a marriage relationship.
One of the people you talk about in the book is a young lady by the name of Sophia, who had her first sexual encounter when she was 14. Share with our listeners not only the encounter, but the impact it and on her marriage, and how she found hope.
Barbara: Right. Well she just went to a party with a group of friends and before she knew it, some acquaintance—she didn’t really know this person, a friend of a friend-was forcing himself on her, taking her back to a bedroom and it was her first exposure to sex, and you can imagine the trauma it was for her. That really just propelled her on a path of promiscuity after that.
Dennis: This was truly date-rape?
Bob: Was she not shouting and screaming and saying, “Leave me alone!” and, “Let go of me!” and “No!”?
Barbara: You’re in so much shock; you really don’t know what’s happening. So even if that could’ve been happening, she was probably off in a room where no one was there. And then there’s so much shame that you don’t even want to tell anyone.
Dennis: Barbara, you’re ministering to women in small groups by the hundreds, now?
Dennis: How prevalent is date rape today with young ladies coming out of this culture?
Barbara: I’m sorry to say it’s more and more because of young people going to parties where there is drinking and whenever you bring any kind of substance abuse into it it lowers people’s own ambitions. They do things or get exposed to things. It just breaks my heart.
I hear so many stories of young girls innocently going to a party and then before they know it, someone is forcing them into a bedroom and forcing themselves on them, and that’s their initiation into sex.
Dennis: So what would you say to parents who are raising their sons? Because I know one of the things you talk about in the book is how men need to protect women.
Dennis: I think we need to be talking straight to our sons that one of their responsibilities that they’re charged with as young men is despite their sex drive being what it is as young men they need to be protectors of young ladies’ innocence.
Barbara: Yes. I have three sons and I told them all that. I said, “God has made you the protector of young women’s purity.” Even when they were engaged, I said to them, “If you don’t protect the sexual integrity of your future wife today, she may not say too much now, but later on in your marriage, she will turn around and resent you for that because you didn’t protect her. And there will be distress and it will create problems in your marriage one day.
For young women, now I bring in this whole concept of be wise about people that you hang out with, and it is okay to say no. It’s okay to speak up. If somebody has hurt you or wounded you or abused you or forced sex on you, tell someone right away. Get healing right away. It’s not going to go away; in fact, it’s going to cause you to make sinful choices that are going to hurt you.
Bob: Let me go back to Sophia. After she had had this experience at 14, did you say that opened the door for promiscuity in her life throughout her teenage years?
Barbara: Absolutely, because she didn’t tell anyone so she lives with this shame and guilt. And let’s bring up the fact, too, that once you open that sexual pathway, that God says in Songs of Solomon, you know, “Don’t arouse or awaken it, because once you’ve opened it, it is easier to fall into that temptation.” So here she is out partying with guys and she feels so lousy about herself. Now she’s drinking and then it’s easier to have sex and how to very promiscuous culture.
But, she was a Christian. She was raised in a Christian home. Eventually she met and married her husband, who wasn’t like all the other guys. He was a really good guy and treated her well. Well within a few years of her marriage, she began to resort back to her promiscuity and for about five years, was having multiple affairs without her husband knowing.
Dennis: Sexual promiscuity really is somewhat of a predictor of unfaithfulness in marriage?
Barbara: Actually, it is. In fact, I quote some studies in here that show that people who have had sex outside of marriage have a greater chance of being unfaithful in their marriage and also a greater chance of divorce.
Bob: Well, as I have said to couples at our Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences, because we get with the engaged couples, and I just look them straight in the eye and say, “Look, if your fiancée is having sex with you today, the one thing you both know about the other person is that you are people who will have sex with somebody you’re not married to. You know that. The reason you know that is because you are having sex with somebody you’re not married to! Now what makes you think that post-the alter that will change?”
Dennis: Yes! You got to trust each other.
Bob: Right, and you can watch these couples, you can see the wheels start to spin, and they go, “I never thought about it quite like that,” but we see the effects of that in married couples and you saw it in Sophia’s life, so she’s having multiple affairs. Did her husband finally learn of this or did she talk to you before he found out? What happened?
Barbara: Well, during that time she had an experience with God when He really showed her, “okay, do you really want to be doing this?” She kind of had a 180 turn and stopped. So eight years later now she is still struggling with this shame and impact of her past and also the promiscuity in her marriage. It was to the point where she was saying, “I’m going to go to the grave with this. I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m not going to tell my husband.”
But it was impacting their emotional and physical intimacy. They weren’t having sex. In fact, she says, “I could barely look my husband in the eye because I always felt like he has to know.” When you’re filled with shame you feel like it’s on the outside and everyone can see it.
It wasn’t until she read my first book Invisible Bond that she realized she needed healing for this. It was impacting her marriage, and so she came to our study. Even before the study began she knew that God wanted her to share it with her husband, so that’s how she came into the study.
Bob: And did she do that eventually?
Barbara: Yes, she did. In fact, about halfway through the study, she had it really confirmed and God shared with her that in order for her to have complete healing, and in order for her and her husband to have complete intimacy that she wanted, God said, “You’re going to have to expose this. You’re going to have to share it.”
Bob: Is this one of the first things you confront women with as you sit down with them and take them through this study? The fact that all of this is going to have to come out in the open?
Barbara: I try not to scare them right off the bat, you know what I’m saying?
Because sometimes that could be a deal-breaker. Like, “I don’t want to tell anyone!” We lead them gently to that point. We start with you need to get healthy and you need to get healed. Because really part of this whole journey, the most important part is that it draws you closer to God and gives you greater intimacy and trust in God, because if you’ve been hurt in your past, sometimes we go, “Well where was God in all of this? Why did He allow this to happen?”
So first, trust needs to be restored with God. And as you trust Him in this journey, then when He starts saying to you, “Now I want you to tell your husband.” At first you might be going, “There’s no way!” But once you trust God, and you see some of the impact of his healing, you’re willing to say yes, and that’s what happened with Sophie.
Dennis: You talked about this in your book as “cleaning house.” I was recently with a guy, who was laughing about this, but his garage had collected just tons of stuff, and he hadn’t cleaned his garage in years! Hadn’t had his car in the garage in years. He was surrounded in the neighborhood by everybody who had clean garages and their doors were always left open to show off how clean their garage is.
Bob: Can we stay on subject? I’m not liking where you’re taking this!
Barbara: I know where we’re going here!
Dennis: And finally, the guy broke down, and he called a friend and said, “Bring some buddies over here. Let’s clean the garage and let’s deal with it.” He had it on a yearly plan for years! He hadn’t done it. So, a bunch of guys, over a dozen guys, came over. Well, the first thing they did was take everything out of the garage in total, so much so that people were stopping on the road asking if it was a garage sale!
And he said it was only after everything was out there that we began to see, “Man! Most of that stuff doesn’t belong out there!”
Dennis: And then, with the garage that was clean, they then began to put a structure in place to be able to store stuff and put things away. In a sense, that’s really what you’re calling women to do at this point is clean your house, move everything out, and park it in its ugliness for God to see and for you to take a look at and to ultimately grieve it, but that’s where they begin, when they confess their sins. 1John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us.”
That’s what people really need is they need a washing. They need a cleansing in their soul. In fact that verse concludes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Bob: But let me ask you: Is it possible because I’m sure you’ve had women who will get to this point, they get the garage clean, and it’s all out there where God can see it. They confess. They repent, but now we’re talking about, “Do I tell my husband?” They go, “I just cannot! I want what you’re talking about. I want the cleansing and the healing. I want the emotional intimacy, the sexual intimacy to be all that God wants it to be, but I can’t do that.” So here’s my question: Is it possible for them to have what they want and not tell her husband?
Dennis: Is it possible to be healed?
Barbara: Not completely. Because whenever we keep secrets the enemy is allowed to torment us over and over and keep that shame and wounds alive. I believe just reading scripture and knowing more and more about God that He doesn’t like secrets. He keeps talking about bringing things into the open and the things that we’re hiding He’s going to disclose. He’s going to bring them into the open, and my experience is the first step is bringing it all out into the open and allowing God to show you.
I just love your analogy of the garage. It’s perfect because with our wounds, they accumulate, too! We kind of don’t even notice, but, you know, you’re applying your experience, relationship, they accumulate, and they’re all kind of stuck in the garage of our hearts.
Dennis: And so what do you do? It’s all in the front lawn, you’ve got it out there…what does a woman do now?
Barbara: And that’s the first step, just bringing it out and allowing God to show you, okay, what happened here in your life. How did that impact your view of sex or your view of God or men? How has that hurt you? How did that experience back here, maybe when you were 12, maybe someone exposed himself to you or someone pushed themselves physically on you, how did that cause you to make other choices?
So when you bring it all out, we get them to write out their story, which is kind of like the part of cleaning your house, and God shows you cause and effect. How experiences in your past led to other choices. It’s a great way of God bringing truth, and that allows that grieving process to start.
Bob: But I got to come back her to this telling your husband part, because I know that a lot of women listening going, “I could never do that! Here’s what they think. “If I did that he’ll either leave me, he’ll say, ‘I have grounds now. You are unfaithful, so I have biblical grounds to divorce, so I’m out of here!’”
Or he’ll say, “Okay, I’m not out of here, but I could never be with you again. Ignorance is better than…”
“I’ll just try to patch this one together because if he knew, it would be the end. We’d never have the kind of emotional intimacy in a relationship that I’m longing to have. It will just send us back to our corners!” What would you say to them?
Barbara: Well, in every case where a wife has told their husband, it has been the opposite. The husband who loves his wife will want to work that out, and it has made the marriage stronger.
Dennis: I’ve got two comments on this. First, and I can’t say this unequivocally because I’m not experienced this, but the husband already knows something’s up.
Barbara: They often do.
Dennis: He may not know there’s an affair, but he senses a sense of disconnectedness. I hate to put it in these terms but he may be relieved to find out what the truth is and what is going on. So as a man you can begin to address it.
Barbara: As I was telling you, often when women are getting ready to tell their husbands, the husbands will start saying things like, “I had a dream last night that you had an affair.” And it’s like God is preparing their hearts to hear that news. I see that over and over.
Dennis: I agree. The second thing I’d like to say is that God calls to take steps of faith. He doesn’t ask us to run ahead and solve all the problems at the same time. Take the first step:
1 John 1:9 says, “Start with God. Confess your sins. Name them before Him so he can cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”
A lot of times our sin has control over us: the shame, the guilt, all that paralyzes us from being able to do anything with our spouse. That kind of transparency with God gives us courage with our spouses.
Bob: And then James 5 says “Confess your sins one to another...”
Dennis: “So that…”
Bob: “…so that you may be healed.” And you got to take that scripture at face value, don’t you?
Barbara: Absolutely. In fact, that is one of the scriptures that we use as a foundation for our ministry and working together and sharing in a group the healing process.
Dennis: You go on to talk about the need for grieving that sin. You say there’s anger that we experience because of our sin? Are we angry at ourselves, angry at other people?
Barbara: Yes. Well, let’s say someone has hurt you in the past sexually or forced themselves upon you or you just made that choice. There’s a lot of repressed anger towards others. But we stuff it away and sometimes internalized anger comes out as depression and sadness and other physiological conditions. So we really walk the women through a grieving process for their past.
And it starts with acknowledging other people’s part in what has happened to you, but also in your choices, and expressing anger in a Godly, healthy way so that it’s not abusive or unhealthy. Then walking through grief and then walking through forgiveness. So it’s those three pieces of the grieving process that we walk through.
Dennis: And receiving the forgiveness of God is that what you’re talking about?
Barbara: Yes. Forgiveness of God but also forgiving others is part of that process, and many times, forgiving ourselves. I hear lots of women say that “I can forgive other people, but I just can never forgive myself,” and so part of that as well.
Dennis: After you move through this process, you then encourage women to say good bye to their sexual history. How do you say good bye to something…
Bob: ...that you’ll never forget completely? I mean, you still remember your story?
Barbara: Yes, we can still have the memories, but we write out our sexual history list, pray and ask God to show us people that we’ve created that bond sexually and then pray through it and ask God to sever that bond, emotionally, spiritually, physically. What I say is even though the memories completely don’t go away the impact of the wounding form that past no longer triggers the same emotions for us.
So, even though I can still remember my past, when I remember it, it doesn’t trigger shame. It doesn’t trigger the same wounds, the same pain, and those kinds of things. That’s what we bring into our marriage that keeps impacting how we react in our marriage, and so that’s gone so that you’re free completely.
Dennis: You know, as you were talking, Barbara, I thought of Romans 6:23. This is really what we’ve been talking about, just how our sexual past can control us in our marriages today. Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death.” Now, the context here is spiritual separation from God. The result of our sin not only separates us from God, though, it also separates us in marriage, from our spouses.
But the passage goes on to say, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus Christ and the cross embody forgiveness. We’ve all sinned. We’ve all broken God’s laws. We’ve all failed numerous times, whether in act and in deed or in our imagination, in our fantasy worlds or emotionally. We’re all in need of grace, forgiveness, and mercy and that really is the message of these broadcasts. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Really there’s no other world religion that offers a personal forgiveness through Jesus Christ. He’s the one who comes to us and offers us forgiveness that not only allows us to be free from the past, but also to experience eternal life with God.
I want to thank you for your courage to tell your story. You’ve done that in a couple of books, and you’ve done it on the broadcast here a couple of times. I just appreciate you being willing to go back some ugly moments and encourage others who have experienced the same thing. Thanks a bunch.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: Yes, and Dennis, there are, undoubtedly listeners, who, as they were hearing you talk about what God offers, that the gift of eternal life and what Christ has done for us. They thought, “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it explained that way or understood it the way you were explaining it. I want to know more about what you’re talking about.” We’ve got a book we’d like to send you called Pursuing God. It’s a free resource that helps walk you through what it means to experience forgiveness and to have an ongoing relationship with the God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ.
You can request a copy of this book by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY, and we’ll make arrangements to have a copy sent to you so that you can understand what it means to be a Christian, to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Again, the number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let me also encourage you. If sexual sin is a part of your past, and it’s something that you’ve never dealt with, call to get a copy of Barbara Wilson’s book called Kiss Me Again. Again, you can call us at the same number 1-800-FL-TODAY, or you can request a copy when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
The website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call our toll-free number 1-800-358-6329.
1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY, and we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Barbara’s book sent to you.
Let me just again say a quick word of thanks to those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. I’ve told people before that it takes three groups of people for this program to be available on this station.
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And we want you to be back with us tomorrow when we’re going to hear part one of a message from Jennifer Rothschild, who has lived with blindness now for almost three decades. We’re going to hear some of the lessons God has taught her about walking by faith and not by sight. That comes up tomorrow and I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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