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Shame, Healing, and Restoration

An Axis Course On Sex Talk 2.0

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” – John 8:3-5

It’s hard to imagine the degree of shame and fear this woman must have felt. Sexual intimacy can already be incredibly vulnerable, even in the context of marriage. Add to that the fact that these religious men are ready to kill her because of what she’s been doing—and not with a quick execution either. Stoning is a slow, painful, and brutal process.

Even though most of us likely haven’t received death threats because of our sexual behavior, our experiences with sexuality have often been bound up in shame and fear as well.

We sent out a survey asking parents the question, “Would it be hard for you to share your own sexual history, and the lessons you learned from it, with your kids? Why or why not?” Here are some of the answers we received:

  • “I am afraid they will be disappointed in me.”
  • “I feel like they might not listen to me because of what I have done. I feel ashamed sometimes.”
  • “I worry that they will lose respect for me or think, ‘My mom did it and she’s fine now so it’s ok if I do it.’”
  • “I didn’t make good decisions and it’s embarrassing to me to tell my kids when I’m hoping they won’t have the same experiences.”
  • “I haven’t wanted my kids to use it against me and say, ‘Well, you did it!’”
  • “Things were not done properly as I was not brought up in a Christian household. I believe kids (especially teens) sometimes use that information to justify their own choices.”
  • “I don’t want my mistakes to give them a free pass to choosing less (i.e. set the bar lower for them than if they thought I had made better choices).”

These are parents who want something better for their kids, but also have a fear that being honest about their lives would incentivize rebellion in their teens, more than it would help construct proactive pathways out of temptation. There was a desire to maintain an image of purity—even one based on misrepresentation—so that the next generation might feel obligated to pursue what they thought their parents had achieved. Others feared their kids’ judgment, imagining them to be like the Pharisees in John 8.

And yet, the only one who has the right to judge us is the one who responds with grace and kindness. Returning to the passage, starting in John 8:7 it says,

When they kept on questioning him, [Jesus] straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ …At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Is there anyone who is without sin? No. We all do things that hurt others, hurt ourselves, and go against God’s intentions. Yet how does the Son of God respond to us? The passage says, “Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” – John 8:10-11

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” But it’s also just as true that “Healed people heal people.” An important part of your son or daughter’s sexual maturity and discipleship depends on your own sexual maturity and discipleship—specifically, your experience of healing, forgiveness, and/or self-forgiveness. Unresolved issues always color our view of reality, which colors how we talk about reality and how our kids see it.

Healing is possible, and many parents who have pursued their own healing have found that it allows them to minister to their kids in new and powerful ways. In fact, alongside the earlier responses we shared from our survey, we also received these:

  • I want them to walk in freedom and confidence more than I want to avoid awkward conversations.
  • It has been very sweet to come alongside our kids as they make their own choices and to share where we’ve been/poor choices we’ve made and how God has worked in our stories.
  • I felt it was important for my kids to know so that they would know that I understand how they feel and also where they’re coming from. Also, by admitting my past mistakes hopefully they would learn from them and not make the same ones.
  • I’ve only been able to move forward with my problems through sharing them with others, so it makes sense to continue that openness with my kids.
  • Our sexuality is so closely tied to our hope in Jesus, and I want my kids to see that I believe that. He’s using both my successes and failures for His glory.

Maybe to some of you, this sounds impossible. But as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Action Steps

As promised, here’s another 2-minute video from our conversation with David Galvan on the purpose of your story for the next generation:

Also, if anything you’ve read here has opened any old wounds, we encourage you to spend some time with the Lord exploring that part of your story, whether that means journaling, prayer, conversation with your spouse, and/or counseling. One of our hopes is that you might get to the point where you can share your story without fear. We don’t mean all the gory details, but simply being able to be honest about the experiences that helped you decide you wanted something different for your kids, whatever that looks like.


“Father, thank you that you are the God of all comfort. Thank you that no sin against you is beyond your forgiveness, and no sin against me is beyond your healing. I ask that you would lead me to whatever I need in order to be restored to total wholeness in my own sexuality. I ask, not only for myself, but for the sake of my children—that they might see the power of your redemption in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”