#153: Discovering Who You Are

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What you believe about God has a huge impact on what you believe about yourself. When you’re at the top, it’s easy to feel like you’ve got it all together. But when you’re at wit’s end and harassed by life, the ground you’re standing on may start to feel a little flimsy –unless you know who created you. Join Juli and her guest at the coffee shop to hear how you, with all of your flaws, were created by a sovereign and creative God. And He’s not finished with you yet.

Guest: Michele Cushatt

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  • Christine Young

    Christine Young

    Loved hearing her again & the improvement in her speach. She struggled so much last time being it was so need to her surgry. I prayed that she could feel more comfortable in where she was at. That is such a hard one for all of us. She did GREAT! Love you all!
  • Alyssa Schmidt

    Alyssa Schmidt

    Michele Cushatt is always so encouraging to me. ❤️ Thank you for being so honest on this topic.
  • Ginger Taddeo

    Ginger Taddeo

    What a life changing message that this podcast reveals. It's one thing having the head knowledge of who God says you are, it is another thing to embrace it. I'm recommending this to all of my friends!!

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What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?
(Presione aquí para leer en español). If someone asks you, “What are your thoughts on cohabitation?” or “Do you believe God is ok with gay marriage?” how would you respond?  To answer those questions, you will (without even realizing it) tap into your underlying beliefs about the purpose of sexuality.  Every opinion you have about sexual issues is rooted in a larger narrative of what you believe about sex—and ultimately, God. Your sexual narrative is the background that helps you make sense of sexuality. It’s the backstory on why our sexual experiences and choices should matter.  Our culture’s changing views on issues like living together or gender fluidity come from an evolution in our sexual narrative. The larger culture now predominantly tells a humanistic narrative that honors human sexuality as a primary form of self-expression and identity.  In a recent study, the Barna group concluded, “Sex has become less a function of procreation or an expression of intimacy and more of a personal experience. To have sex is increasingly seen as a pleasurable and important element in the journey toward self-fulfillment.” If sex is an important part of self-fulfillment, experimentation and sexual “freedom” become very important avenues to maturity.  In contrast to this narrative, the traditional church narrative presents sexuality as a “pass or fail” test of moral character and religious commitment. In my last blog post, I wrote about the limitations of the traditional “purity narrative” of sexuality. If you read that post, you might have been left wondering. If “saving yourself for marriage” isn’t the complete Christian narrative about sex, then what is? To understand the fuller picture of Christianity and sex, we need to start with the premise that sexuality isn’t just about what happens here on earth. It was created by God as something sacred. Sexuality is fundamentally linked to intimacy. As much as our culture tries to push the concept of “casual sex,” there is nothing casual about it. Sexuality, as created by God, taps into our deepest longings and vulnerabilities.  Sexuality must first and foremost be understood as an earthly aspect of humanity that points to a heavenly truth. That truth is that we were made for intimacy. We were created with deep longings to be known, embraced, and loved eternally by a God who will never leave us nor forsake us.  We cannot understand marriage and sexuality until we understand what they were designed to point to. Our sexual longings symbolize the experience of being incomplete. A sexual encounter at best provides a momentary taste of what we were created to experience for eternity. Even within marriage, we continue to have these longings because marriage was never meant to fully satisfy them. C.S. Lewis eloquently states the angst of desire and disappointment: “The longing for a union which only flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable.” Marriage is the metaphor for the answer—not the answer itself!  God created the covenant of marriage to be an earthly experience that points to the eternal reality that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of His Church. He pursued her, sacrificed to make her holy, and was united with her through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are most fulfilled when we abide deeply with God. We get glimpses of that intimacy here on earth, but we are still left wanting! As Paul says, all creation groans for Christ to come and claim His people. While the cultural narrative worships sex as a source of our personal fulfillment, the biblical narrative presents sex as a sacred picture of longing, unity, and covenant. Its power is not in attaining sexual satisfaction but in recognizing the deeper longing it represents. This narrative gives a greater context to all things sexual. It explains the why behind the what.  It also helps us understand why sexual intimacy is celebrated within marriage but wrong when it happens apart from a covenant. It fleshes out why sexual betrayal is so difficult to recover from. Within this narrative, male and female are not interchangeable, because they represent Christ and the church. The Christian “rules” around our sexuality are there because they frame the picture of the true purpose of our sexuality. We were not created for sexual expression. We were not even created for marriage. We were created for intimacy. The greatest sex in marriage is a wonderful thing, but still a temporal pleasure meant to point to deeper longings. This is why the New Testament holds singleness in such high esteem. The ultimate good for a Christian is not a happy marriage but surrender to and unity with Christ Himself. Marriage and sexuality are holy metaphors to be honored but should never become idols that overshadow our longing to know God Himself.  Over the past several years, I’ve been studying and “unpacking” this biblical metaphor. The deeper I press into this mystery (and it is a mystery!), the more I’m understanding God’s heart for our sexuality. It helps me put into context my struggles as a wife, the disappointments I see and experience, and also why everything sexual is such a massive spiritual battlefield. My heart for you is that as you engage with Authentic Intimacy materials, you are not simply learning the Christian “rules” about sex, but are encountering God’s heart for you. Sex is not just about sex. It is a physical way that you experience what you were created for… eternal intimacy with a faithful God.    Read the first and second blog in this series. You may also find these follow-up resources helpful:  Java with Juli #218: Rethinking Sexuality in Your Life (member exclusive) Java with Juli #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual Java with Juli #166: We Are All Sexually Broken  Java with Juli #182: Your Generation and Your View of Sexuality
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Joshua Harris, Sexuality, and "Deconstructing" Christianity
Image Courtesy DOCS-ology/I Survived IKDG Recently, the evangelical world has been rocked by the news of Joshua Harris’s decision to leave his marriage and Christian beliefs. Joshua is the bestselling author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and was a well-known spokesperson for the purity movement of the 1990s. A few years ago, Joshua began a journey of listening to people who have been wounded and disillusioned by the message of the purity movement: “Save sex for marriage and God will bless you!”  Joshua Harris has joined a chorus of former evangelicals who are walking away from their Christian convictions largely because of how the church has ignored or mishandled sexual issues. Legalist, judgmental, hypocritical, misogynistic: These are all words used to describe the traditional Christian approach to sexuality.  What saddens me is not simply Joshua’s conclusions and personal choices, but the reality that thousands of men and women readily identify with his “deconstruction” from Christianity. While I’m not personally familiar with the specific details of Joshua’s journey, I’ve talked to men and women like him, and understand the trigger points of why questions about sex can shipwreck a personal faith in God. Every sexual issue is a spiritual issue. Because of the church’s historical refusal to talk openly about sexuality, many people have a disconnect between their sexuality and their spirituality. They live with an invisible wall that appears to separate their sexual choices and beliefs from their relationship with God. I believe this divide between sexuality and spirituality is an illusion. Our beliefs about sexuality begin and end with our beliefs about God. Is He trustworthy? Is His Word reliable? How could a loving God not embrace me just the way I am? As Joshua’s journey showcases, when we question God’s sovereignty and kindness related to our sexuality, we will question everything we have ever believed about Him. Deconstructing our views of sexuality will always cause us to revisit our beliefs about God. This is why it is critical for every Christian to be firmly rooted not simply in the rules of Christian sexuality, (“thou shalt not…”) but to delve deeply into God’s heart related to our sexuality.   The purity narrative has never offered a satisfactory explanation of God’s heart for sexuality. In an effort to encourage teenagers to stay pure, the purity movement presented unrealistic promises (a great marriage and sex life) to those who followed the rules, and oppressive shame (you become like "already chewed bubble gum") for those who didn’t. The larger message of the gospel somehow got lost. God is not primarily after our sexual purity; He is after our hearts. Our righteousness has never come from our sexual choices, but by surrendering to the finished work of Christ. We have not been called to “save ourselves for marriage,” but to set ourselves apart for God.     Satan's goal is not simply to destroy sexuality but to keep us from God. I have met many people, like Joshua, who have been hurt and disillusioned by the message of sexual purity. But let’s be clear: The message of “sex positivity” is also leaving a multitude of ruined lives in its wake. The purity movement was not primarily destructive because of what it taught, but because of what it often failed to teach. Following Christ has never been as simple as obeying a list of rules, nor have the blessings of obedience been primarily about happiness in our earthly bodies. The gospel is far more profound. A few years ago, I got stuck on something Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “I resolved when I was with you to teach nothing but Christ and Christ crucified.” If you’ve read Paul’s letters to the early churches, you know that Paul taught about a lot of things, including sexuality. But his statement means that in every topic we address, we must begin and end with the message of Jesus Christ. He is our why. He is our how. He is our what. As I pondered this passage, I wondered, how can I talk about all of these sexual issues at Authentic Intimacy with the same resolve that Paul had—to teach nothing but Christ and Christ crucified? We can’t just talk about sexual purity, the dangers of pornography, sexual abuse recovery, or any other sexual issue in a vacuum. We must always ponder these issues in relationship to what it means to be a sinner saved by grace, living in a fallen world.  Teaching the principles of biblical sexuality without the forefront and backdrop of Jesus’ forgiveness and redemption of our sins is legalistic and cruel. I don’t believe that Joshua Harris or any other person has left the Christian faith because of sex, even when that is the obvious trigger. Sexual issues and questions have the power to tap into our most profound fears, insecurities, and questions. Am I loved? Where do I find truth? Who will meet me in my excruciating loneliness? If we continue to give simplistic rule-based answers to weighty questions, we are bound to see more people flee from Christianity. God has created us as sexual people. Our sexuality is a powerful and profound aspect of what it means to be human, to be loved, and to long for connection. As a result, sexual disillusionment and brokenness can send shock waves through the core of our personhood. God is the redeemer of all things, including sexuality. The journey toward truth and healing is arduous for most of us. Yet it is not only a journey toward healthy sexuality, but a journey to knowing the intimacy we were ultimately created for: Unity with our Creator Himself. My heart is to journey with you, to acknowledge the complexity of your questions, but to remember that Jesus Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. Satan will use anything to keep us from Jesus. Remember that the central issue at stake is not about sexual purity, homosexuality, or any other aspect of moral behavior. Don’t get distracted from the pivotal question that sheds light on every other concern: “Who is Jesus?” He is my why. He is my how. He is my what. He is Lord.   To learn more, check out these additional resources:  Pure Sadness and a Better Way Forward; Dr. Juli Slattery's newest book, Rethinking Sexuality; Java with Juli episode #235: How the Purity Movement Hurt Us;  #236: Pursue Wholeness, Not Purity; and #256: Who Is Jesus to You? Photo provided by I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye