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I just initiated a hug… am I allowed to do that?!

Lust can really screw us up, let’s just be honest.  While in lust, we find ourselves wildly swinging around between unihibited indulgence and shame and guilt.  After a while, we swing so well that we can’t really figure out how to function in real life with real people.  I always laughed at (but obeyed) the six inch rule in high school, made jokes about the “No PC” (physical contact) rule in college, but found a slight problem when it came to real life.  See, there aren’t any rules here.  It left me swinging wildly in the land of Oh-Great-Now-What.

I have never had a real male presence in my life.  My dad left my family when I was younger, and my brothers are both younger than I.  My interactions with real, tangible, living breathing men were non-existent until college and then every man was an eligible bachelor, so I’ve never quite figured out the balance that the rest of the world seems to have figured out.

Then I met P’api.  How he weasled his way into my life I don’t rightly know, but I am very grateful he did.  He and his wife have become good friends of mine and have encouraged this ministry since day one.  There was a problem though.  P’api is, obviously, a man, and Jessica has never dealt with a real live man before.  I know there are rules of engagement in such circumstances, but I was too busy not paying attention to such rules when growing up.  There are no remedial classes.

When I first started interacting with P’api and his wife, I wouldn’t let him hug me.  I had some self-righteous reason, I’m sure.  Mostly it was because Joshua Harris, in his book “Not Even a Hint” had said that friends of his used to wait in anticipation for hugs so they could feel a woman’s body.

Not this woman’s body!  I thought.  No way I am ever hugging a man. Ever.

He would reach out in love and I would retract like some jumpy turtle.  I am sure I looked unsocialized, but it was the safest reaction for me.

The years brought closeness and healing in certain areas.  I understood that P’api communicates his love through touch and that it was not any kind of advance.  In time, I came to cherish his hugs because they made me feel loved and protected.  Eventually I began waiting for them, knowing that every time I saw him, I would get a hug hello and a hug goodbye and that this is just what P’api does.

By last spring, I felt P’api would be as much my father as any man could possibly be.  Still, I walked around with this invisble force field.  We would carry on our conversations from opposites sides of the room.  It is the weirdest feeling in the world to carry on deep conversation with someone ten feet away.  There have been times he has come up to me to wipe away tears (because I get emotional) or to bring me a blanket, but he always goes back and sits down.

A couple weeks ago he hurt me, albeit unintentionally, and I went over to talk it out with him (which is a new communication process for me.  Usually I play the whole passive-aggressive woman card).  Sitting ten feet away just didn’t feel right.  I felt like I was going to lecture him, so I climbed out of my couch and wandered over to the footstool beside his.

“What are you doing?”  he asked.

“I just wanted to sit by you so I could talk to you.”

“You could have asked me to come over and sit by you on the couch.”

I think a million little sirens went off in my oversensitive conscience.  “No, no.  That’s ok, I just… I’m fine here.”

He laughed (he does that a lot).  “Jessica…that’s fine.  Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

I felt guilty afterwards.  But it wasn’t real guilt, it was more guilty about not feeling guilty when I am pretty sure I should be feeling guilty.

Maybe you can identify.

It ate at me.  I needed a reason to feel guilty.  There was no way that I could sit that close to a man with no intentions on either side and it still be OK.  I hunted down P’api’s wife the next day and said, “Ummm…. so I wanted you to know.  Did he tell you what we talked about?  {He did- always does} Ok, well I wanted you to know that I sat by him but I made sure that the arm of the couch was between us.  I just wanted you to know and if I ever do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you feel I shouldn’t do, I need you to tell me.  I want you to tell me.  I want to keep this line of communication open because if that’s not OK with you, I want you to tell me.”

I think I stammered and repeated for five minutes and she just watched me, smiling.  I think her smile was my answer.  It was OK.  In fact, I think she was supressing laughter at the fact that I was so bothered and worked up over something like that.  As she walked away, I laughed in relief- no guilt here.  Just freedom.

Being hypersensitive to boundaries is not a bad thing at all.

When I was first journeying toward freedom, I asked my roommates to please stop talking about sex even though they were doing it in such a Godly way.  My heart could not handle that yet.  I had to build my walls up tall and wide to give my heart and mind time to heal.  Unbeknowst to me, I had built up walls around my body as well.  Walls are a good thing.  Boundaries are a good thing, but, in time, it is OK to let some of the supporting walls go.  Think of it like crutches when you’ve broken your leg.

Obviously I talk about sex now, and it does not bother me.  I could not have done this five years ago, that is for certain.  There were many things my heart could not handle, but God has brought healing and bit by bit I find my heart is stronger in Him.  Now I have a whole new collections of walls and boundaries to reevaluate because I shouldn’t feel guilty about being loved.  That’s the devil’s lies right there.

Letting my boundaries prevent my healing or letting my healing destroy my boundaries IS bad.

It takes a level of discernment to know when it’s God bringing new healing or when it’s Satan uncovering a weakness.  Sometimes I wonder if they can’t be the same thing.  We have to take constant inventory of our boundaries and make sure that we haven’t let our liberty turn into license to sin.

Yes, I am free to sit beside him just like I would sit beside someone in church or sit by someone on the bus, but to always sit beside him or to go from sitting beside him to sitting on his lap, well, that would be an entirely different story.

There is a balance, and I am so grateful for a man as patient and protective as P’api to help me in my journey to discovering it.  It is important that we ‘re-socialize’ ourselves to learn how to interact with men in a way that is God-honoring.  For many, pornography has severely damaged those skills, and part of our journey in grace is learning how to interact with our brothers in Christ while esteeming our brothers Christ, while protecting their integrity, while allowing them to fill God’s calling.  Definitely not an easy task for anyone!

How about you?  Where are you in this journey of learning the ropes?