Expectations: The Great Set-up

Martin Fierro

Traveling through out America we daily experience the ‘rules of the road.’ Such as when we come to an intersection that will display one of the three standard colors (green, yellow red). And as we come to the intersection we are expecting that if we have the green light, the perpendicular street must have the red. Thus, no one should be trying to cross into our ‘right of way.’ These rules of the road are reasonable expectations and we easily become emotionally charged if our path is interrupted to these reasonable expectations.

However on the road to recovery and sobriety our expectations, realistic or not, will affect the daily relation patterns.

Expectations at the early onset of recovery from sexual sin and vices can appear to be like waiting at a double-stop sign waiting for a clear shot to cross traffic, or get into it. And then, in large part, expectations are placed on you to work your recovery, keep sobriety, attend this meeting, make that appointment, make those calls, and the list goes on. It was best said by an EMB alumni that his spouse ‘drilled me with questions’ about my daily behavior and sexual addiction management. Now many of you are probably nodding your head recognizing the expectation of such questions and similar expectations. It is the art of expectations that is related to inspections. For how else is someone going to be measured and then evaluated on their progress of recovery and sexual sobriety?

Within your band of brothers, when checking in with one another, the onset of the meeting should be about inspections. Not necessary expectations being evaluated at the first. When it is not about inspecting and evaluating (good and bad information) the relationship can become one of dictatorship.

Expectations in any relationships will begin when we take our own ideals, standards, and views of things, and project them onto other people. Then we anticipate that our brother at arms will live in accordance with these standards we set. And when that person(s), band of brothers, church, pastor, political leader doesn’t ‘live up to it’ we can become bitter and will most likely cut-off the relationship.

Now take a brief moment and see if you recognize yourself in the pattern of cutting off because someone else does not or did not measure up to your expectations–that might be the exact experience your wife experiences when she reviews her relationship with you. Possibly? Then again some of you might reverb ‘she expects the impossible!’ When it comes to your relationship with your spouse her expectations are commonly for the recovery of the relationship. Not to destroy you. While also in support to the rebuilding of trust, expectations are the fuel to long term stability not necessary short term comfort.

Expectations in any aspect of recovery should be evaluated and reviewed with a brother at arms, officer at arms, mentor etc’ Having too strong of expectations, like you should have all the green lights going your way because your in recovery can be selfish, insensitive and careless to your loved ones. Too weak of expectations on yourself in recovery lead you to feel like you will always be stuck at the red light appearing defeated and stuck in life and will lead to contempt.

Finding the balance of having reasonable expectations is part of the recovery process. Your expectations will not come from out of the blue, but, from your faith system that fuels your moral and ethics in life. Your unreasonable expectations come from your internal wounded self that deep down desires healing and protection. That wounded core self creates many expectations on an individual and the relationship with others.

At the onset of any relationship there is the inspection phase. It is through that inspection a person will learn, rely and develop expectations for how the relationship will pursue, or not. When the road way is open, it appears we have all green lights and the relationship continues. Then, we take a side road, apart from the one we asked to trust in us and expected the same. When sexual sin entered your relationship on that side road trip, your wife’s expectations of full sexual devotion to her alone became the interference with relationship growth. Call it the red light of the ‘trust’ highway. And now maybe you so desire to get on that road, while she won’t even give a yellow light.

In closing what is trying to be conveyed here is that to rebuild trust, a man must be careful of his expectations on his spouse for the green light of the open highway of the relationship. At the same time, work through the expectations to carry out his battle plan with brothers in the battle inspection and evaluation to support you maintain your sobriety and assess if your expectations are reasonable.

‘When we demonstrate the insight and courage to embrace the truth, along with finally putting an end to the pain of constantly being disappointed by unmet expectations of one another, our relationships have the opportunity to become rich in authenticity, trust, and deep emotional bonding.’ Author Unknown

Celebrate Your Victories!

Jonathan Daugherty

There is one thing I wish we as Christians were much better at doing, and that is celebrating. We tend to struggle on the whole at really cheering one another on in the faith and throwing parties in honor of those demonstrating the character of Christ. In this article I want to challenge you to cultivate an attitude of celebration in your ongoing pursuit of purity.

God designed us for joy! He didn’t design our minds, bodies, or spirits for anxiety, depression, or gloom. Yet, how often do you find yourself stressed to the max and feeling as if you can’t breathe under the weight of your life? The pace of life, the onslaught of temptation, and uncontrollable circumstances beat you down. But is that reality from God’s perspective or just the excuse often used?

The truth is that it is simply easier to point out faults than to celebrate victories. One reason for this may be that we are spending more time giving into temptation than we are living in purity. But does that mean we must wallow in our sin and shame while our moments of faith and resolve go completely unrecognized? I think not.

One thing I have found to be true in pursuing purity is that the “domino effect” works in both directions, whether following our lusts or following Christ. The more we give into temptation the easier it becomes to fail more quickly the next time we are faced with a similar situation. Conversely, the more we discipline ourselves to obey Christ, taking every thought captive, and connecting with our band of brothers, the stronger we become in resisting attacks. Because of this principle I believe it is all the more important that we develop an ongoing attitude of celebration, not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of other brothers striving for purity.

I have numerous people contacting me every week, wanting to know how to break free from sexually destructive habits. I try to respond to every person based on the core values of ministry (hope, integrity, humility, honesty, compassion, perseverance, accountability, faith, and love). The values that amaze people most about how I interact with them are hope and love. Many times people will attempt to argue that their situation is unique and they really can’t be free. But I never back down from the hope of freedom available to everyone through Christ. What many of these individuals have missed much of their life is someone sharing the truth with them and cheering them on when the journey is hard. They have never been celebrated for doing what is right, only chastised and shamed for their sin and addiction.

Jesus Christ was the incarnation of joy. Many times, because of the very serious nature of his mission (salvation of all mankind) we tend to picture him sullen and, well, miserable. Last time I checked, I didn’t see throngs of people dashing to see a sullen, miserable person. People were drawn to Jesus because He exuded life, true life. As his followers we are to do the same. And one way we do this is by celebrating the successes we, and others, have on our journey to purity.

Here are a few ideas on how you can celebrate your victories:

When you meet a purity goal

– Give yourself a gift of some sort to remind you of meeting that goal.

– Share a meal with your band of brothers in honor of accomplishing your goal.

– Celebrate with a favorite hobby or activity (i.e. golf, hunting, professional sporting event, etc.)

When you resist temptation

– Call a buddy to share the success with them.

– Say, “Thank you Jesus for this victory!”

– Write down what happened to remind you later of the victory.

Here’s the real key to celebrating victories: don’t celebrate alone! God wants us connected, to Him and to others around us. We can certainly have personal moments of celebration just between us and the Lord, but the ongoing impact of celebration is most often realized in the context of others. Surround yourself with people of celebration who understand how to balance getting excited about doing the right thing and holding you accountable when you stray.

So, how’s your “celebrateability?” I challenge you to watch for the moments and situations worthy of celebration. Then, don’t be afraid to cut loose and enjoy the freedom God has given!

For help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.

How Far is Too Far: Sexual Integrity for Singles

Bob Parkins

Not many Christians debate God’s instructions against premarital sex. However, there is still not a consensus or a shared understanding regarding what constitutes acceptable physical affection and what is sinful. The Bible uses words like adultery, fornication, lust, and purity, all words that have very clear meanings. Yet many Christian singles, teens, and even parents remain confused. Many Christian singles and teens struggle to maintain sexual purity while abstaining from sexual intercourse, yet many are engaging in sexual acts. They deceive themselves by legalistically reasoning they haven’t violated God’s boundaries because they haven’t technically had sex.

While the Bible does not appear to clarify exactly what other acts for singles are and are not acceptable in God’s eyes, it is very clear about the guidelines we are meant to judge these acts by.

When asked by young couples, ‘how far is too far?’ I generally ask them to search their hearts and examine what their intention and motivation in asking is. Usually a couple who asks ‘how far,’ is also struggling to maintain sexual purity. Those struggling with sexual purity or addictions are in the habit of pushing limits and boundaries. They want to know what is the maximum they can get away with. They look for loopholes in attempts to satisfy the desire for immediate self gratification.

The Bible warns us about being deceived and worshiping idols (Deut 11:16; Exo 20:14), and sex can be an idol to those who struggle to maintain purity. Scripture also tells us that God sees what truly is in our hearts and we will sow what we reap (Gal 6:7). If you have ever asked ‘how far,’ and have patterns of pushing limits, it is likely you are not truly interested in purity and really want to get away with as much physical affection as possible. When you put it that way it seems silly to consider the technicality of sin. If you discover your motive is to selfishly seek your own physical gratification, instead refocus on what is pure (Phi 4:8).

When you flirt with sin, you put yourself in a position to sin. To answer the question more directly, anything that causes you to sin is ‘too far.’ This is probably the best litmus test for determining limits since the Bible doesn’t tell couples specifically how they can show physical affection, at least not in the manner many look for. There are several scriptural examples of expressing affection through treasuring chastity and virtue and abstaining from sexual immorality (Isa 62:5; 2Col 11:2), a counter-cultural perspective in most increasingly permissive/promiscuous societies. Jesus models surrendering personal desires to the Father (Luk 22:42), and encourages us to ask for God’s intervention in maintaining victory over sin in The Lord’s Prayer (Luk 11:4). If you are willfully sustaining a desire that cannot be righteously met, you are deceiving yourself (1Thess 4:3-8).

Determining limits may be a little different for different couples, but be cautioned against any propensity to justify pushing limits. If you get excited to the point that you struggle with lustful thoughts or fantasies from kissing, or if you have difficulty respecting boundaries (yours or hers), you may not be able to handle more. Consider then abstaining from kissing or other applicable acts. Some may not struggle with kissing and will need to set limits accordingly. I suggest also abstaining from any physical activity or show of affection that you are not comfortable doing in front of her father. There are several genuine and appropriate displays of affection that pass this test.

It is important that couples talk about setting physical limits early in their relationship. We live in a backwards culture where single men often push women to/beyond their sexual limit. This is not what God intends or requires of us in marriage, so it certainly cannot be condoned in dating. Men are to cherish and protect their wives, not take advantage of them for their own pleasure (Eph 5:25-28; Col 3:19). Just as a father is to protect the innocence of his daughter, so are we to protect and respect any woman we are dating. Sexual desire for her is not bad, but respecting her virtue means protecting her from these desires (yours or her).

Men, it is up to you to initiate this conversation and establish boundaries. This may be the very first act you exhibit of spiritual leadership in a budding relationship. Any potential spouse who is worth spending your life with will respect your integrity because they will feel safe and cherished. Two scripture verses that are helpful in maintaining focus on purity are:

– (2Ti 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

– (Phi 4:8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Be encouraged by the peace God promises those that live pure and virtuous lives

For more help in the battle for purity, see Every Man’s Battle.