Christian Living


The Mysterious Connection between Sexuality and Spirituality

Clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery, co-founder of international non-profit Authentic Intimacy, believes what the Bible says about sex and shares the hope found in God's forgiveness and healing to women around the world.

In Surprised by the Healer: Embracing Hope for Your Broken Story, her book with co-author Linda Dillow, Dr. Slattery addresses the "mysterious connection between sexuality and spirituality" and what to do if you've experienced brokenness.

How do you know if you have a broken story?

Dr. Juli Slattery: All of us have a "broken story" to some extent. We all know rejection, disappointment, and loneliness. Each one of us needs the redemption and healing that Jesus came to bring. No doubt some people walk with more pain than others. We each know people whose stories make us weep or cause our pain to seem pale in comparison. However, pain is pain. While a divorce or parent's rejection seems normal in today's world, it still represents deep brokenness and grief for those experiencing it. People know the brokenness of their own story.

"Many women who are sexually active have never been sexually intimate." What do you mean by this?

Dr. Slattery: Giving yourself sexually is simply one aspect of sexual intimacy. Both in casual sexual relationships and in marriage, people can be naked and sexual without the vulnerability of intimacy. I've met with women who have been married decades, obviously sexually active, but who have never experienced sharing all of who they are with their husbands.

How do lies play out in our sexual brokenness?  

Dr. Slattery: We see that men and women often stay in bondage to lies related to brokenness. For example, they may believe the lie that God can't (or refuses to) forgive their sin, so they walk in shame. Or they may believe that God doesn't heal things like wounds resulting from sexual abuse. Our relational and sexual brokenness provides fertile ground for Satan to plant lies about God's love and our worth.

How do we start to heal?

Dr. Slattery: Healing begins by admitting that we are broken. Many of us limp through life without fully acknowledging the wounds we carry. Healing also begins by embracing that Jesus truly is a loving Healer. He's not just concerned about the "world out there" but invites you to come to Him as your Healer and Redeemer. The Lord usually uses His body (the Church) to express love and to walk with people through healing. Therefore, a next step is to reach out to someone (friend, counselor, or pastor) who can encourage you as you pursue healing.

Each of the stories in the book concludes with an "invitation." What kind of invitations do you extend and why?

Dr. Slattery: When you read through the Gospels, you will see that most people who were healed by the Lord were in some ways involved in their healing. Some ran after Jesus for healing, while others were asked to do something very specific as a demonstration of faith and desire for redemption. Healing is not passive on our part. The invitations in the book give a person tangible ways to engage with the Lord in his or her healing. Some examples include invitations to exchange truth for lies, come out of hiding, experience the radical love of Jesus, and make peace with a broken life.

How important is it to break the silence?

Dr. Slattery: Oh, this is a critical step for both individuals and communities. Our enemy loves to work in the shadows. In isolation, his accusations and lies gain power. When a person speaks their struggle out loud, even to one other person, the power of that isolation is broken. When a church or community acknowledges the brokenness among them, God begins to work. While we wrote Surprised by the Healer to minister to individuals, we also hope it is an impetus to prompt these necessary conversations among God's people.

Why is "forgiving yourself" so difficult related to sexual sin in the past?

Dr. Slattery: In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul writes about the mysterious connection between sexuality and our spirituality. In essence, he is saying that there is no such thing as "casual sex." Our sexual choices deeply impact us spiritually and relationally. Because of this strong connection, we often believe that sexual sin is unforgivable. It creates deep shame that seems more powerful than even the saving grace of Jesus. While sexual sin deeply impacts us, it is not beyond the redemptive healing power of Jesus. To walk in the freedom available through God's forgiveness requires that we embrace the truth that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

How does the "Healer" use counseling?

Dr. Slattery: God has created the world with principles of wisdom that apply to every aspect of human functioning, including interpersonal relationships and trauma. Those who have experienced deep brokenness often battle addictions, eating disorders, PTSD, panic attacks, and difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Among the spiritual gifts given to the body of Christ are wisdom, discernment and knowledge. Through professional training and spiritual gifts, some men and women are uniquely equipped to help others recover from trauma. While modern psychology offers a humanistic approach to healing, principles of wisdom related to human functioning can be a critical part of the healing journey. A godly counselor understands his or her role as ultimately bringing wounded people to the grace and love of God.

The stories in your book don't all have a "happy ending." Describe how healing can often be "messy" and feel incomplete.

Dr. Slattery: I would say that none of the stories have a complete "happy ending." While the Healer met each of these women in profound ways, they still struggle with various scars from their brokenness. Paul wrote in Romans 8 that all of creation groans as in the pains of childbirth for the coming of the Lord. We are all "groaning" as well. Regardless of the Healer's mercy, we still live in a fallen world, longing to be made whole in the presence of the Lord.

What is the "gift of pain"?

Dr. Slattery: The gift of pain is what potentially brings each and every one of us to dependence upon God. Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Our pain makes us aware that we are sick and in need of a Savior. Practically every follower of Christ will testify that his or her deepest knowledge of God has come through seasons of pain. Without this gift, we would be blind and deaf to our spiritual need to know the Lord Jesus.

How does God see our brokenness? What hope does He offer?

Dr. Slattery: Isaiah 61:1-3 is one of my favorite passages because it answers this question directly:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus read this passage stating that He was the fulfillment of this promise. He has come to bind up the brokenhearted, free captives, comfort those who mourn, and to exchange our grief with a garment of praise.

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