Sexual Brokenness and Healing, Part Three

This week, Dan wraps up a three-part conversation with Jay Stringer, a licensed mental health counselor, ordained minister, and author of the new book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing. In this episode, Dan and Jay look toward the hope of healing. How do we foster deep, lasting change in our hearts?

Obviously this is a huge topic and will, for many of us, be a lifelong journey, not something you can thoroughly explicate in a 20-minute episode. So Jay offers a few categories that will hopefully foster a sense of spaciousness and movement in realms that have felt stuck and bogged down for years. The first category is curiosity—the capacity to treat ourselves and our feelings of brokenness with the open-handed attention with which God pursues us.

Jay: “The pursuit of God in our lives is full of inquiry. So one of the things I invite my clients to do is listen to their lust.”

This might mean wondering about the core fantasies and arousal structures you’ve had for years—acknowledging that lust and fantasy are present, not trying to kill them or ignore them, and asking why they are here. Otherwise, if we are not able to make meaning out of our thoughts and behaviors, the change we seek will likely remain as elusive as ever.

The pursuit of God in our lives is full of inquiry.

Dan: “Have the integrity to assume this comes from somewhere. […] You’re a creature of continuity, you’re a creature of narrative. Therefore, let’s understand something of what are the formative roles, stories that have some significant impact.”

Jay: “It’s such a critical task to be able to make meaning out of the things that capture our heart.”

Genuine curiosity, though, will require us to confront the shame that so often pervades these discussions. Jay argues that, if we hope to disarm the power of shame, we cannot run from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. To turn toward it, to name our story and face ourselves with gentle but relentless curiosity—that is crucial to processing the impact of shame.

Jay: “So much of the power of shame in our lives is our attempt to run from shame. But what happens when we run from it is that it legitimizes its messages about us.”

When we have begun to explore our story and treat ourselves—including our fantasies and lusts—with curiosity, Jay says the next category to consider is integrity. This is often a buzzword tossed around in familiar conversations about accountability, so it’s easy to breeze past it. But when Jay thinks of integrity—a holistic, whole-life commitment to address the dynamics that emerge from our story—he recalls something he learned from Dan: “You become a very dangerous man or woman to the kingdom of darkness the moment you’re not seduced by lust or power.”

That intersection of power and sexuality—like the category of anger we discussed in Part One—is rarely considered in conversations about sexual brokenness, particularly in the Church. It is a crucial dynamic, though, and many Christian leaders are woefully ill-equipped to address it in themselves, let alone in people they lead. That’s why Dan affirms, again, that Jay’s new book is a vital read for the work that lies ahead.

Dan: “The #MeToo movement is not going to go away. The reality of significant leaders breaking our hearts—not gonna go away. My little prophetic prediction is, you will play just an immensely important role for the kingdom of God—not only in terms of your humility and the brilliance of the work you have done, but as well the paths you have walked are paths I want to walk, and our listeners will want to walk.”