Why? Because this young woman’s marriage was on the rocks. She was a member of one of the standard cult-type denominations and her church leaders had told her it was up to her to keep her marriage intact, even though her husband was not a member and was threatening to leave her. “What do I do if he does?” she asked, near tears.
At that point I knew there was no sense talking “the plan of salvation” or the church with her. What I saw was a desperate young woman in pain. She was three or four years older than I and judging by her young children, had been married about that many years longer, but she still looked to me to answer her question, even though at that point in my life I looked about 16. I turned to 1 Cor 7:10-15 and read it to her, culminating in, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart, the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.”
She looked at me in amazement. “Why didn’t my own leaders show me this? Why did they tell me I was in sin if I didn’t figure out a way to make him stay?” Because, I was thinking to myself, they read something besides the Bible, but it was not the time for that conversation. Even my young, inexperienced self knew that.
But I had taken an “older” woman with me—she might have been 30—and after we left, she got all over me. How could I possibly give marriage advice? What was wrong with me? How could I tell her to leave her husband (which I did not do and could never figure out where that accusation came from)? All I did was read the Bible to her. And that conversation led to more, some even more ticklish, like the time she asked me about something in their sexual relationship. But she kept asking and I kept going, and we did eventually talk about the gospel. All too soon we left that place, and as far as I know, no one from the church ever went to talk with that young woman again. I planted the seed but no one bothered to water it because it was too “difficult” a situation.
That was my first experience with difficult questions. By difficult, I don’t meant theologically difficult. I mean the intimate ones, the ones that deal with things seldom discussed—especially among Christian women. All my life I have seen young women too afraid to ask those questions. Too often they are ignored because no one wants to deal with them. Other times they receive a hastily muttered response amounting to, “Oh, you’ll get over it,” or “It’ll go away if you leave it alone.” And worst of all, because she admits she has a problem with anything involving sex and asks how to deal with it, she is told that if she were truly a Christian, she wouldn’t have such disgusting issues in her life.
It’s long past time for that to stop. If we older women truly want the younger women to come to us, we need to change how we receive them. We need to act like their problems are real—because they are!—and nothing that isn’t common to others. We need to be able to say those words we usually avoid because we are “ladies.” In a society where sex imbues everything from automobiles to hamburgers, it’s time we faced the truth: even Christian women have problems that maybe our own generation or the ones before it did not, not because we were better than they, but because our noses weren’t rubbed in it every day.
It’s time we realized that Christian women can become addicted to pornography, as early as middle school. It doesn’t make them any less a Christian than the one who is addicted to gossip. Now deal with it, don’t sweep it under the rug and allow a floundering child to die in sin because we don’t want to face the facts.
We need to be able to look teenage girls in the eye and say, “If he has ever laid a hand on you in anger, get away from him. It will only get worse after marriage.” Yes, I have seen “Christian” abusive husbands. We need to give these girls a list of things to look for, and we need to give that list to the men to teach the boys how to avoid becoming those abusers.
We need to talk about what does and does not constitute intercourse and more than that, teach the attitude that strives for purity, not just toeing the line as closely as possible so we can still call ourselves virgins. My daddy used to say, “We keep putting the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LAB-le, and look where it’s gotten us.”
We need to talk about the place of the sexual relationship in marriage, not only its problems and pitfalls, but its glories too. We need to tell our young people that God meant us to love the look of one another and not be ashamed of it. We need to teach young women about the needs of their husbands in plain language they can understand. We need to physically pull their heads out of the sand if they won’t do it themselves.
But more than anything else, we must teach our young people that we are happy to talk about anything with them, even things that might feel uncomfortable to us. And we need to hide that discomfort at all costs if we expect to form a relationship with those precious souls. They need to know how important they are to us, and that their questions will be held in confidence. They need to see this in us as we give them our full attention and really listen. (Obviously, situations can arise where health and safety of both body and soul may require us to speak to someone in authority. That should go without saying.)
There will always be hard questions. I have seen a few young people who seem to ask them just to see the reaction they might get. Don’t give them any excuse to assume you are “just like all the other old people—fuddy-duddies who don’t really care anyway.” Instead, surprise them and prove them wrong.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure…Titus 2:3-5