I just got back from Nashville and the third of the this year's three National Youthworker's Conventions. By the way, kudos again to my good friends at Youth Specialties for making it possible for youth workers to gather together in this setting.
My time at last weekend's convention took on an interesting personality in terms of one theme that kept coming up over and over in my conversations with youthworkers. That theme was adolescents, children, and their sexuality. It was a constant theme before, during, and after the convention. It came through in questions, news reports, Facebook postings, and snail mail. The pounding has left me heavy.
Like everything else in this post-Genesis 3:6 world, God's good gift of sexuality has been fundamentally flawed and is in desperate need of redemption. Sin has polluted how we think about and do our sexuality. It has polluted how we think about and do other people's sexuality as well. It's complex. . . . far too complex to even begin to dissect here, but the realities we face require - I'm increasingly convinced - those of us who care for and love kids to be "undoing" the polluted sexual messages and practices of this world, and "doing" the sexual messages and practices of the Kingdom. In a clear way, it's simply living out the way and will of the Father that we pray every time the Lord's Prayer crosses our lips. . . . "Lord, may your Kingdom come in all of its power and glory in and through our understanding and experience of both ours and other's sexuality."
I left for Nashville already somewhat broken and haunted by the conversation I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. When I arrived at my hotel, a blog-reading youth pastor asked if I would be sure to tell the story and address the reality in my seminar. I agreed. I decided to speak openly about pornography and other flawed expressions of sexuality that exist in our culture today. Sadly, it's all part of the soup even the youngest of our young swim in on a daily basis. I wanted to address how these things hurt kids not only now as they are often-times victims of sexual abuse - both visually (the sad and sorry stuff they see) and physically (the sad and sorry perversions perpetrated on them by others) - but the sad realities of where this will all lead as they reach adulthood themselves and are prone to live what they've learned in relationships with the adults and children in their own lives. It's quite scary.
Then, while I was there in Nashville, I was reminded of the ugliness of sexual and relational sin over, and over, and over. Both a map for kids and a mirror of where we've sent them, there's the new Levi's ad (posted below) and the link that someone posted to it on our CPYU Facebook page on Thursday afternoon. It left me wondering. . . . how will this fruit of the sexual revolution of my childhood bear fruit in both today and tomorrow's youth culture?
Then there was the local news story that broke in our paper on Friday morning. This one was about a man that I know who plead guilty to multiple counts of multiple types of sexual molestation of multiple girls ages 6 to 13. He was sentenced to prison on Thursday. Ever since he was arrested several months ago, this story has left my head spinning. I wonder how he got to the point where he could and would do what he did. I wonder how his horribly skewed and perverse expression of his sexuality will affect his young victims who were robbed of a sacred innocence. . . . both now and for the rest of their lives. What about the estimated 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4 boys who are victimized by sexual abuse before they reach the age of 16? What fruit will this epidemic bear in people, relationships, and families over the course of the next 20 to 30 years?
Then there were the stories of abuse I heard while I was in Nashville. Again, it's epidemic. Youth workers themselves who had been victimized. I heard horrible stories of youth workers who perpetrated with vulnerable young students. And, there are those stories like the one close to home that is sadly, not just something happening here. . . . and families, churches, counselors, and youth workers are left dealing with the messiest of messes that are never completely undone this side of the new Heaven and new earth.
With all this fresh on my mind, I began my day today with reading Ecclesiastes. Verse 18 of Chapter 9 jumped off the page as I thought about the consequences of sin and how its "sound" never ceases. In fact, it echoes and reverberates out from generation to generation. . . . oft-times increasing rather than decreasing in volume. The author says, "one sinner destroys much good." That's certainly true when it comes to sexual sin. That's what happens when our children are violated.
When I got into the office this morning there was a letter on my desk from the Pittsburgh Coalition on Pornography. The back page contained "A Confession for Sexual Brokenness" for use in congregational worship. Because of our shared brokennes, I pass it on to you in it's entirety here:
Suggested introduction by leader: We come now to our time of confession. Christians all over the world recognize the profound harm that pornography and sexual sin are having upon our culture - and upon many of us individually. God says to be free of sin, we must first confess our sin - so in a spirit of humility let us be first to confess our sexual brokenness before God - and we hope and pray that our confession will ignite a revival of God's standards for sexual behavior around the world. So, whether or not you've committed sexual sin or experienced sexual harm or brokenness - or if you would simply like to pray for our sexually broken culture, would you join with me now. . . .
Leader: O Lord our God, today we come before you to confess that in our sinful nature we abuse your gift of sex, which you meant to nurture our marriages with love, pleasure and children. Lord we have made sex an idol in our culture and sometimes in our personal lives as well. Lord, we often allow envy, pride and lust to control our sexual behavior rather than love, fidelity and selflessness.
Congregational Response: I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before thee.
Leader: Lord we confess that sexual sin has left many of us broken. Some of us have failed to keep your standards for love, devotion and purity in our relationships - or in our entertainment choices. Some of us nurture bad habits of lust that keep us from giving ourselves fully to our spouses. Some of us have been scarred by sexual abuse and yearn to forgive and be free from emotional pain. Some of us have developed a sexual addiction that controls our behavior, damaging ourselves and those we love.
Congregational Response: Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Leader: Lord we cry out to you for healing. Please accept our confession of sexual brokenness for ourselves and for our culture as we pray silently to you now. . . . Lord we thank you that you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to you and to one another.
Congregational Response: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from thy presence, and do not take thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.
Leader: Hear now the good news; a broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. Amen.