Filling the Hole in Your Heart

I usually spend time on Yahoo’s main page during the week to check out news items.  The internet if full of time-killers and this provides more than enough material for a lunch break.  Today, I came across a story that I had to share.

Here’s the headline from the Good Morning America article (a little wordy for my taste):

Meet the Men Having Sex With Strangers to Help Them Have Babies

Take a second and wrap your mind around it.  Meet the men, having sex with strangers, to help them have babies.

The story gives two examples of men advertising free sex to women for the sole purpose of procreation.  The first guy profiled chose to use an alias as he is married with two children and didn’t want his wife knowing.  That should be enough of a red flag right there.  He claimed to have more than a hundred sexual partners.

The other guy was a young adult, a college student who believed he had great foundational material to give a woman quality offspring.  The article even profiles a woman, in her mid 40’s, who sought out this one-time encounter because she had “waited too long” to find a husband and get pregnant.

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What have we done with sex?

I can see both sides of the debate.  Women have the right to do what they want with their bodies.  If they want to find a guy for a purely physical experience, then so be it.  “Guys do it all the time.”

We’ve taken this act and debased it down to a transaction.

Everyone has a void in their life.  We are created with a space in our hearts that draws us towards our Creator.  This void can also take you in different directions.  We, as humans, do whatever we can to fill the hole. We drink, smoke, do drugs, buy things, write, paint, draw, and find whatever is possible to fill it.

We lean on love and physical connections to feel like we are not alone.

It is time to reclaim the value of sex.

Any man willing to create a child should be willing to father that child. Women need to know they are worth it to find partners who love and respect them. Teens must understand that the babies don’t go away when they get that text message that says, guess what? I’m pregnant.

I read articles all over the place from blogs to churches and marriage coaches. They say to have sex with your spouse on a daily basis.  It will do wonders for your marriage. It will cure everything.

Your husband will love you again.

Your wife will be happy

Sex can cure it all.

They are wrong.

Remember having homework? How did it feel to have something required every night after you got home from school?  Did you appreciate the value of what you were doing? Did it get tiring? Did life get in the way?

How about a shift in focus? What if sex, even if it is one night a week, was an amazing experience of focus and effort from two people dealing with the stresses of everyday jobs and kids? It can be a divine escape. Escapes, when they are daily, become routines.

Routines create men who sleep with women to “help them get pregnant.” Routine sex is devalued sex.

We need intimacy.

There is no more intimate relationship than one with God, no more holy transaction than death on the Cross.

I believe that marriages can be fixed.  Kids can have their innocence again. Love, effort, and faith can exist together and energize relationships. A guy like the one in the article above can find the connection he wants with his wife and children, not the women he finds for hook-ups. Sex can be returned to its rightful place and the holes in our hearts can be filled.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: Kristian Stanfill covered this in concert last night.  Powerful song!

We are Parents and that is Okay

Before I jump into the new series of posts, I read something this morning that necessitated a response:

A friend of mine on Facebook shared an essay published on the Quartz blog entitled How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage. The post itself is related to an article in the New York Times in 2005 by Ayelet Waldman, where she discusses ideas like not liking her children, telling them that she loves her husband, their father, more than them and that this is a good thing.  The authors of this post took Waldman’s views and analyzed them a step further.  In doing so, they make some important mistakes.

I’ll respond to a few of them here:

They talk about the current focus on children and call it a religion.  They say how we shoot down anyone who dares utter a disparaging word about their offspring. To site their own words:

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid-1980s. Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

I wonder if they’d ever spoken with someone who had lost a teenage child in a car accident, or their husband, wife, mother, or father. Yes, we value babies and toddlers, but all human life is precious.  Talk to the family supporting their elderly parents in hospice care and ask about the value of their lives. You know what the Baby on Board signs did? They made money for their inventor, that’s it, not as signs of the start of a plague on modern parenting.

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Another sign of the parenthood religion is that it has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don’t like them all of the time. We are allowed to say bad things about our spouses, our parents, our aunts and uncles, but try saying, “My kid doesn’t have a lot of friends because she’s not a super likable person,” and see how fast you get dropped from the PTA.

We can admit we don’t like our kids all the time.  Carter and Aiden press our patience often.  I would never, in my life, utter the final quote in the paragraph. Even if your kid wasn’t “super-likable”, wouldn’t that be something you’d want to work on as a parent? How responsible is it to make that claim in the first place? Kids take effort and that conclusion is equal to throwing your hands up and saying, what the hell, and moving on.  As a father, that possibility never crosses my mind.

Mothers are also holy in a way that fathers are not expected to be. Mothers live in a clean, cheerful world filled with primary colors and children’s songs, and they don’t think about sex. A father could admit to desiring his wife without seeming like a distracted parent, but society is not as willing to cut Ms. Waldman that same slack. It is unseemly for a mother to enjoy pleasures that don’t involve her children.

I’m not sure where they’re getting this idea. Mothers should think about sex.  I’ve posted about this more than once. Women should live well-rounded lives with their own passions and exist without condemnation. A healthy marriage, with equal parties, allows it to happen.

In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion.

We can easily lose ourselves in parenting, but, it is not because children are a religion. They are part of us, a creation with a purpose to draw us closer as spouses and families.  Carter and Aiden enhance our marriage.  The trick is to find a balance.  We must build up our children.  I spent time working in Alternative Education and had more than one conversation with a child ripped down and abused by the parents. I’ve looked in their eyes and seen the weight of their disappointment, anger, and rejection. Children need our love, not our worship, but not our outright dislike either.

Kids are a project. They take effort, time, emotion, and patience.  Marriages take the same.  Children should enrich our marriage experience. The bottom line of the Quartz post is a cry of selfishness. Perfect love is selfless. Parenting is selfless. When we serve each other, we can make a difference.  When our children see our selfless love, they will learn a model of servanthood drastically needed to change society.  Change is possible, marriage can be saved, and parents will take a vital role on both fronts.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Let’s Talk About Sex Part 2

Earlier this week, Craig Gross, pastor at XXX Church in Las Vegas, posted a blog entry about seven keys to great sex in marriage. Before I jump into my response to his post, let me offer some background.  XXX Church, as you can imagine, offers services to individuals dealing with pornography addiction. They attend trade shows and hand out Bibles to adult film actors and actresses.  The man who founded XXX Church with Gross, Jake Larson, has spoken at our church more than once.  He’s a dynamic speaker and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him before on a side project. So, I’ve known and respected their work, and acknowledge the value it offers.

Then I read Gross’s post.

I’m not going to rehash every detail, but there are some things that stood out to me.  I believe he meant well but, more than once, he was off base.

I’ll save you time with this, don’t bother with Gross’s article if:

1-You have more than one kid who takes your time and energy through the day then has trouble sleeping themselves at night (he advises sex twice a week at minimum).

2-You don’t have the money or time to rent a hotel room (he suggests this).

3-You have excuses like a physical ailment or physical or emotional insecurity (his advice is to get over it, work out, or get counseling).

4-You, as a man, ever hesitate in initiating things (he says to not worry about your wife, just take it off the table and initiate as much as you want).

He does make a valid point about connecting with your spouse and that is key. His post has inspired me to offer my own take on things.  Here are some thoughts for the rest of us with issues, kids, and actual lives inside real marriages:

1/ Creation: I believe we are all called to create.  Carter loves to draw, write, and tell stories (don’t know where he gets it!). Your love life inside marriage should be an act of creation. Take the time to possess each moment and make it something new. Pay attention, even if the lights are off (as Gross says to never do in his post). When you must make the effort to steal your intimacy in the midst of stresses, make it count.

2/ Empathy: Give something to each other.  It doesn’t have to be physically. I’ve written before about sex being a commodity. To many people use it for power over their partners. Want to increase intimacy? We have a front door that needs fixing.  Today I handled it (after putting it off for two weeks, as per my usual home projects). Val appreciated the effort.  When you start small with giving, it can lead to larger results. We all love to reward ourselves. Once in a while, reward those closest to you.

 

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3/Foundation: You know what builds a marriage? Struggle. You know what builds a family? Adversity. You grow together and you don’t know what you have until you are pressed. Great sex comes with the victories, with the moments of joy that can spark a connection when you least expect it, when you see the look in their eyes that says We did this together.

As you start the grind of a new week, think about your relationship and your family.  What could you do to make it better?  Every step is a positive one.  Take the time, pay in your effort, and you will see the rewards.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration: Did this song at church today.  One of my favorites, Hillsong’s Cornerstone.

Let’s Talk About Sex

The final message in our church’s series about love, dating, and sex was this morning.  We didn’t make it as both of the boys are fighting colds but, they told us the talk this morning was about sex, so I though we’d jump in on our own.  Great reading for the holiday weekend!

My grandparents lived in the town of Spring City, PA for the majority of their adult lives.  The house was a few minutes away from Pennhurst State School and Hospital (famous for the tragic happenings inside and the haunting that followed). I remember my grandmother telling me that illegitimate and unwanted children were dropped at the entrance and left to grow up in the halls of the hospital.

Sex was different at the turn of the century.

It was always there.  You can check historical records of prostitution “the oldest trade” back thousands of years. It was used for domination, perversion, worship, and procreation. Beauty was recognized, regardless of gender, and the wealthy chased it with passion.  Times have changed.

We have reached a point of sex being a commodity. It is front and center with the advent of technology.  The secrets behind bedroom doors are now public material. The most intimate of acts has been thrust to the center of conversation for better or worse.

I spent almost a year working at the Children’s Home of Reading and spending time with the victims of human trafficking and abuse. I’ve listened to an in-service lecture at a local high school by a lawyer discussing current cases of teens “sexting” pictures of themselves and their partners. It is a dangerous world.

That’s why, as parents and couples, we must take it back.

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I look at Carter and Aiden and I don’t envy the world they will have to navigate as they get older. They will fall in love, date, have their hearts broken, date again, and keep going. They will be able to reach out and connect with love interests at the touch of a button. They need to be prepared.

As parents:

Have the Talk: Just do it. Talk about sex. Explain the importance of the act. Talk about how babies don’t just go away whether you are the mother or father.  Talk about the responsibility that comes with it. Build a bridge of trust and make sure your kids know the door is always open.  Sex is a scary thing and they don’t have to face it alone.

Use Technology to Your Advantage: There are programs available to monitor cell phone use.  Pornography is a vast and active problem in culture. Check the resources here from XXX Church based in Las Vegas. Keep an eye on browsing records, text conversations, and Instagram accounts.  Know what is happening. Be your child’s advocate. Step in when needed and show them you care.

In your marriage:

Have the Talk: Sex is made to bring you together with your partner yet, even in marriage, we use it for different reasons.  It can be a reward or withheld as punishment. It can be the foundation to the deepest level of emotional connection. It can also drive a wedge between you.

After the kids go to bed, sit at the table. Talk about what is working and what isn’t. Make sure you know what the other person wants and needs. Make sure you care.

Make the Effort: When the weight of bills, medical issues, the kids, jobs, and life starts to hit you can forget about your partner.  You walk into the room with a nod and without a touch of the hand or hug.  You say goodbye without a kiss.

You come home from work and hop on the computer, treadmill, or cell phone.

Take time for each other. Even if you have to schedule it. Pay attention. Buy the gifts. Make the dinner. Go to the movies, rent a movie, do something together. Hold hands. Compliment. Recognize the effort spent in a day of work.

Serve each other.

We can reclaim sex from this society and make it what is it supposed to be. I want Carter and Aiden to be gentlemen and, to do that, they’ll need to see my example.  It’s not always easy but it is always worth it.

~Matt and Val