50 Shades of Broken: Part 2 of 2

No one I hang out with these days is talking about “50 Shades of Grey.” I don’t know if this means that we’re a bunch of clueless old ladies or if we all just live under rocks, but apparently many of our peers are talking about (and maybe even reading) this first book in a trilogy written by E. L. James.

Having just re-read three recent ESI posts related to this bestselling new book – written by Lynn Roush, Kelley Wampler and Warren Mayer, my husband – I wonder if throwing in my two cents is overkill. These three have done a solid job (in my opinion) of picking up the topic of reading books like this, particularly if you claim Christ, and offering three different perspectives on why that might not be the best idea.

After all, like these other three writers, I have not actually read the book, either. And I do not intend to. My husband and I both came to Christ later in life and, as two adults who lived out decades pursuing our own selfish agendas, neither of us feel the need to “drink in” more of what we’re already all too familiar with – in our past lives and, now, in the lives of others.

Which is why, I suppose, I could share one more reason as to why you might want to think twice before reading a book like “50 Shades.” Mine comes not only from my own history of living a life where sexual fulfillment is ultimate, but also talking with and counseling other women who have made choices with their sexuality that seemed exciting…and now are only shameful.

These are real women I’m talking about. Women who are, right this minute, living on the other side of what once seemed titillating, thrilling, empowering. Women who made choices that our culture would tell them they had every right to make…and I suppose they did. But what our culture didn’t tell them is how they’d feel about themselves once the decision was made, the act was complete, and the relationship was over. (And again, I throw myself into this same category.)

I’ve talked to countless women who (for instance), on the heels of a divorce, sought to heal the pain of rejection or the sense of failure by entering into a relationship much too quickly, and often one almost completely founded on sexual attraction. As that new relationship ended, the women would find themselves completely devastated, even when they recognize that they didn’t particularly care for the man they’d just broken up with. I’ve often heard something along the lines of, “I don’t know why I’m so brokenhearted. I didn’t even like the guy. And yet, I slept with him.” This last sentence, if you can imagine, comes with a deep sense of confusion, shame and self-loathing.

Do you think even one of these women could see going into this new relationship how they would come out of it…filled with deep regrets, stifling shame and guilt? Do you think they entered into “empowering” sexual adventures with the knowledge that they would end up living with guilt, remorse and shame? Of course not. All they could see was the newness, the promise of excitement and self-fulfillment.

Now, as I have mentioned, their lives are chock-full of reminders of what they now deeply regret. There are restaurants they no longer feel comfortable going into. There are people they once called friends but who are now living reminders of their past choices. There are possessions – jewelry, clothing, etc. – that they felt they needed to get rid of, as they only served to remind them of misplaced values and poor choices. One woman I know was so haunted by her sexual brokenness that she chose to move away from Columbia, looking for a fresh start.

Surely you see my point. These women, if they are believers, may well be forgiven in Christ and free to repent and live differently on the other side of shame-filled sexual misconduct, but the practical outworkings of their sexual sin includes tangible, constant, recurrent reminders of what they participated in that they now wish they hadn’t.

It’s hard to let go of shame when you continue to be reminded of it. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that every single one of the women I’m thinking of, given the chance, would love to go back and undo some of the relationships and situations they allowed themselves to get into. That last statement is certainly true for me.

I would like to suggest that this is exactly the same way we might look at any temptation to read “50 Shades” and think that the exciting sexual games played out on the pages of a book will help “liven up” our own sex lives, even within the context of our marriages. All we can see is the potential for excitement and a rush of new life brought into our own bedrooms. Perhaps after reading this trilogy, it might spark interest in looking for more erotic fiction to continue to fuel the ideas and keep the excitement going.

Perhaps within the safety of the covenant relationship that is marriage, we might be lulled into thinking heightened eroticism would be okay. I’m certainly not arguing against working to keep your sex life strong and healthy. But Warren’s ESI post earlier this week warned readers that pushing the limits into areas of “playful bondage” may well take both spouses down a path that leads ultimately to degradation. Kelley’s post pointed out that using erotic literature – rather than thoughts of our own spouses – to arouse lust in ourselves is nothing but a temptation to unfaithfulness. And Lynn’s post tells us that we’re always in danger of being deceived by our own hearts, particularly when our sexual appetites are involved.

I think in some ways, we’re all saying the same thing: When we don’t keep in mind what God’s Word says about our sexuality, we are in danger of being led to places we never thought we were headed. What’s waiting around the corner, sooner or later, is just what so many women I’ve talked to are now living with – staggeringly painful guilt, shame and regret.

I think we must be very, very careful about the kinds of entertainment we soak ourselves in. The Bible warns us as to the way in which our actions are first born in our thought life (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45). It can happen so slowly that you scarcely realize it.

Just to offer a relatively-tame example, I grew up an avid reader. During my teen years and for many years afterward, one of my favorite genre of books to read was romance novels. They didn’t have much depth to them, but they drew me in because of the promise of happiness and fulfillment through relationship. I read dozens and dozens of books that ultimately said the same thing: “Find the right guy, and your life will be stunningly complete…and the sex will undoubtedly be great too.” Roses, candlelight and electricity in the bedroom for the rest of your days.

If you’ve read many of my older posts, you’ll know that this kind of thinking drove many of my choices as a young woman. And while many other factors also played a role in forming how I thought about sex and relationships, what I fed my mind for years and years in the form of romance novels was one factor I actively chose. I could have read other genres, but I actively soaked in books that offered up the idea that “relationship is God” and then was surprised when that wrong thinking led me to disastrous places…like divorce, for example.

In the same way, buying into the idea that books like “50 Shades” might have positive suggestions for how to ramp up our own sex lives will eventually lead us to disastrous places. Places we never thought we wanted to go, places we wish we hadn’t. I want to spare as many women as possible the clarity of hindsight, the shame, regret and guilt of making choices about how we use our bodies that are not in keeping with God’s good plan for our sexuality.

Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately sick; who can understand it?
“I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all vigilance
For from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 17:24
The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

 

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