I’d like to tell you a story today about socks, holes, and re-knitting something beautiful.
I love knitting socks. Well, I love knitting anything, but socks are great when it’s hot because they’re small so they don’t lay in your lap when it’s hot. So they’re a good summer project.
Over the years I have knit TONS of socks.
Right now Keith and I are enjoying some downtime camping, and when I camp, I tend to make socks my go-to knitting project because they’re quick, portable, and light.
Plus they’re fun.
The problem with socks, though, is that as lovely as they start out, they get worn. They get holes in the toes and in the heels. They wear out, and it looks like the only option is to trash them.
But I just see this as a challenge! I pull out the toes–or even the whole foot if necessary–and I reknit it. And presto! Brand new socks!
I don’t know why, but there’s a part of me that likes taking things that would otherwise be garbage and turning them into something new.
I wrote about this project three years ago, and I said this:
Sometimes you have to use different wool, because the old stuff won’t work. Sometimes you have to change what they look like. But they can be comfortable and warm again.
Maybe I love doing this because it’s a metaphor for what I feel like God is calling me to do–and for what Jesus himself does in our lives.
As we’re going through life, we get comfortable. We know what’s expected of us. We fall into habits.
Humans are built for that. If we didn’t have habits, we’d have to think about every single little thing throughout the day. Habits let us go on autopilot in some areas of our lives, so we can use our brain power and our emotions for other things.
And so we have these habits–these ways of relating to each other; these ways of seeing the world; these ways of seeing God.
But what happens when these habits slowly but surely hurt us? When we rub against things the wrong way? When we do this again and again and again? Holes start to form. Your life starts to fray. Suddenly what felt comfortable no longer does.
Even if we’ve tried to fix things in the past (like these socks whose heels I have darned so many times already), it doesn’t work anymore.
Life stops working.
I think that’s what so many people are experiencing right now with the church and its teachings around sex and marriage.
At one time, we took it all at face value. Men want sex and women don’t; men are entitled to sex from their wives; women are stumbling blocks to men; men need sex in a way that women will never understand; women must defer to men and not speak up because that’s part of being a godly woman.
And things started to fray. To come apart at the edges.
We’re realizing that it’s not working anymore–that it was never meant to work in the first place. We’re realizing that we can’t keep going on this way, because it’s hurting us. It’s hurting our marriage. It’s hurting our kids.
We need to walk forward in health.
But that’s scary, because it’s like letting go of everything you thought you believed.
Before I fix a sock, I have to do something radical. I have to cut it.
It’s scary to cut it, because what if you lose all the stitches and can’t pick them back up again? What if it’s wrecked forever?
But that first step, that scary step, is necessary. Because once the foot is cut, you can pick up the stitches. You can find what’s real, and you can build on that. You can keep the solid part of the foundation, but you can build something that is stronger.
It’s amazing how many of Jesus’ teachings focus on telling us to step out of our comfort zone and stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. He challenges the spiritual leaders of the day. He tells people to do radical things. And then, in doing so, they find true health and true life again. They find Him.
(I wish I had a picture of these done but they’re still a work in progress! But they give you the picture).
Letting go of what you believe about sex and marriage does not mean that you’re letting go of Jesus.
When the scissors are out, it can feel that way. What if I lose everything? What it often means instead is that we find Jesus in a whole new way. We find true healing, true wholeness. We let go of the things that were causing shame. We experience real intimacy, maybe even for the first time.
As I’ve been knitting and taking some time away, I’ve been processing what it’s been like since The Great Sex Rescue was published in March.
And I think it’s a lot like these socks.
The old way isn’t working. We know it leaves holes in us. For the first few years of marriage, it may feel normal. even comfortable. But eventually we know this isn’t right. There’s got to be something more than this–something more humanizing, more intimate, more real. Things start to fall apart. And we can’t see a way through.
But what do we do with that?
And I’ve been calling people to rip off, to tear up–but then, I hope, I’ve also been calling on people to rebuild.
To reknit. To rescue.
To make something even more beautiful.
To see sex not as a male entitlement, but as something mutual, intimate, and pleasurable. To make that real in your marriage.
That’s why, in The Great Sex Rescue, we don’t just show what DOESN’T work. We have sections that rescue and reframe these toxic teachings in ways that focus back on Jesus. And people have told us that’s the most helpful part of the book.
I’ve received so many emails that have said just that:
Your book has started the uncomfortable journey of unpacking and healing from the distorted views on women and marriage that I grew up with.
Your teachings have renewed my love for Jesus and my hope for the future of my marriage. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you have changed my life. I’ve bought a bunch of books because of your podcast and I’m so excited to see a clear, biblically-sound path out of gender hierarchy. I finally feel free to find God’s calling and walk in it. It’s very simple, and it seems stupidly obvious… But God doesn’t love men more than He loves women! Whether or not that’s how people meant it, that’s how I interpreted and internalized doctrine as a teenager and young woman.
Thank you for putting me on a new path.
Sometimes, of course, marriages can’t be reknit the way we might want.
Some women have told me my book has been so helpful as they’ve been processing the reality of abuse in their marriage. And seeing Jesus’ heart for marriage and for sex has been so healing, even if the marriage fell apart. Throughout their marriage, they were sexually abused and coerced, but they thought that Jesus wanted this. They thought Jesus said ” do not refuse your husband.” They didn’t understand what “do not deprive” really meant. They didn’t realize THEY were the ones being deprived!
And knowing that Jesus was not the ultimate cause of their pain allowed the re-knitting to begin.
It’s like I wrote a few years ago:
Jesus does not wound. Jesus does not throw darts. Jesus does not make holes; Jesus mends them.
And let me say–if someone has left holes in you, Jesus wants to reknit that (and excuse me for stretching the metaphor).
Jesus doesn’t leave holes in you.
I know so many of you are going through radical faith journeys right now, and you’re not sure where you’ll end up. I Just want to encourage you today that Jesus doesn’t mind questioning. He invites it! He is big enough to handle your questions. And I do believe that the things that caused shame and caused holes in your life were not of Jesus. I believe and pray that when you confront those things, you’ll find Jesus.
I’ve been on a rebuilding–reknitting–journey myself.
I may share more of this next week, but I’ve realized as I’ve been camping that a lot of the righteous anger that I have felt as I have called out people for saying that women are methadone for their husbands’ sex addictions is actually grief. I’m profoundly sad, especially that others in big leadership positions in the evangelical world haven’t spoken up, even if they agree with me.
It’s made me question what my faith is supposed to look like. It’s been hard. But it’s also been very, very good.
And I think I needed to get away to let myself feel it.
I don’t know where you are in your faith journey.
Maybe you’ve already re-knit, and you’re in a good place! Maybe life feels a bit like your toes are dancing right now.
Or maybe you’re still struggling. Wherever you are, I’m glad you’re here. I hope we can reknit and rebuild together. And it’s always, always okay to ask questions.
The Great Sex Rescue
Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the things that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these messages?
Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.
Have you had to rip out and reknit something in your life recently? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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