The Dance

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If you are married, you were born to dance. Not the “every man for himself” bobbing up and down with no purpose, running into whoever is in close proximity, roaming through the room with multiple dance partners in your view, but the steady, seamless cadence of being in step and moving as one.

You were born to dance in time with the one you love. When you dance in such a way, it is exhilarating; far better than the exhaustion that comes from dancing out of step.

Yes, we were born to dance but also to run the race. Not to win as in competing against our spouse; rather, as a team, coming together, side by side, cheering each other on.

In the past, dance marathons were a common occurrence. Two would begin and dance both fast and slow until the end…together. They didn’t change partners or walk away no matter how weary one of the two may have gotten, even if the other had to virtually carry that one.

We are called to lift our spouses. “Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Just, as at some points in a dance marathon, one or the other may be able to move with more energy or strength, in marriage we will have times where one or the other is stronger and can “carry” the other more easily. There is no shame in that nor is it to be a contention; it is a gift.

Spiritually, there are times we each need the other to spur us on to look at the cross, to be challenged but oh to be encouraged! Yes, mutual love, mutual respect, mutual encouragement but, at varying times, each will bear the other’s burden more intensely. God specifically gives us our husbands and wives to do just that, not in a condescending way or with a sigh but in a joy infused way that is faithfully and tenderly restorative.

“Your wife is the accountability partner God provided for you. And, wives, your husband is the accountability partner God provided for you. According to Him, the two of you are one single entity (the two shall become one)…” (Matthew L Jacobson, “Who is Your Real Accountability Partner?”)  Again, it’s a gift, not a burden.

Part of keeping the rhythm is keeping all things that can cause us to stumble or create a gap between us cleared out from under our feet; secrets, hurts, weaknesses, fears, distractions from the outside pressing in. If we keep the ground clear, we can maneuver through them together; if we don’t, they will cause us to trip and sometimes fall and we can’t hide that from our dance partners no matter how much we try; we weren’t meant to.

Have you ever seen “extreme” dancing where the man spins the woman out, lifts her high, pulls her around? That takes trust. At times, we may feel like our dancing is “extreme” and, in those times, we have to know we can trust the one gripping our hand. Trust is built when we know we are holding each other up and when we begin to fall or do fall, we have a spouse that is there to lift us up, hold us close, show us grace, and restore the music.

The more we each seek to serve the one we love, even in the hardest moments – be it physical distance for an extended time, illness, the busyness of life, the temptations that bombard, or conflict– the more our desire to love and serve them will increase and the more God will chip away at our selfishness and cause us to love them rather than ourselves more deeply.

Additionally, the more we each set our intimate sights on our spouse rather than on others, the more attractive will the one we love be to us – not just the physical appeal but every aspect. He or she will captivate us and draw us in. Choose to remember what led you to them and intentionally be on the watch, even list out, those things about your spouse that are a joy to you and others! Don’t be distracted by “shiny things” but choose to be fascinated by your “one and only” once again. Guard and keep your eyes – literally and figuratively – only for them. Deliberately find ways to increase that wonder!

On the other hand, the more we look around and intentionally or unintentionally compare our spouses to unrealistic images and the deceptive pull of a situation or a person – be it in person on in media, the less content we will become and the more the enemy will whisper in our ear – “There is more that will satisfy if you just look for it, go for it; what will it hurt?.” Slam the door on that whisper! Don’t entertain the lie and don’t for an instant believe that it is true!

Most importantly, the more we take our spouses, our marriage, and our own hearts humbly but boldly to the throne of grace, the more our God does exceedingly and abundantly more than we could think or ask, first in us and then in the heart of the one we love! Whether it be as the dance is sweet and perfectly in time or at the first hint of the dance being interrupted, lean in and pull your bride or groom closer, even if they are far away physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Call out to the One who can battle for you and put a hedge around the dance floor!

Yes, some days and in some seasons, we will be out of sync; but we must never accept that as the norm or allow the enemy of our souls to make us think the music has ended and it is time to add lines to our dance cards or stop dancing altogether. That is not the melody of delight! In those times, we should be deliberately taking the hand of our one. Then, if we stumble over each other’s feet, it will be together.

Where there is a slow dance, there are two. But we should be dancing, walking as one; not stepping on each other’s toes or being afraid of the other’s next move but able to trust because grace has done and is doing a work in the lives of each of us.

Dancing with abandon because redemption has followed repentance and forgiveness in the small little irritations of life and the bigger, more hurtful situations.

Dancing with joy because we have “found the one whom my soul loves” (Song of Solomon 3:4) and we are growing in that love that is able to stand the test of time and the shifting winds that blow.

There is something beautiful about intentionally choosing each other again and again; there is something about keeping our affections for and on our one. There is wonder in rekindling desire with the one to whom we said “I do” when life has made us weary. There is delight in transparency made possible by grace. And there is great joy in picking up the beat of the music and the rhythm of their hearts, choosing once again to keep in step.

Hear the music and move as one. If the music has grown faint or even silent, be deliberate about making melody together again. You will be amazed at how your love, attraction, and desire for your husband or wife will rekindle and how refreshed your marriage can be.

But don’t stop there! Keep choosing! Keep pursuing! Keep fixing your gaze first on the Savior and, immediately thereafter, on the one with whom you walked the aisle and promised, yes even vowed, to love, honor, and cherish.

See the beauty! See the holiness, the sacred delight of dancing with the one you love… all the way to the end!

We Will Dance   Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go We’ll see them come and go again But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze One thing will not be changin’

We will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight Sometimes we feel so far apart Sometimes we dance as one And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet Some days we’re bouncing off the walls No matter how this world may turn Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

The music will play And I’ll hold you close And I won’t let you go Even when our steps Grow weak and slow Still I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we, will dance

To Know and Be Known…Yet Still Loved

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  I Cor 13:7

If we are honest, we all long to be known.

We were made for intimacy; to know and be known…yet still loved.

It was in the garden that God formed man and woman and they had intimate fellowship with Him and with each other.  Yes, and for the man and woman, that included physical intimacy, given to them for one another as God intended for them to “know” each other.  It was the two becoming one in every way; body, soul, and spirit.  There was no shame, no hidden agendas, no secrets; they were known by each other and by God and they knew – it was delight!

But, as we know, the “lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (I John 2:16) snuck into even the most perfect of situations. Lest we step back and say, “Ah yes, if only I had been there, I would never…” we need to stop and remember.

For there we are right in the middle of it…”the pride of life.”  We assume we would have wisdom and discernment and would stand against that old serpent when the reality is, too often we don’t do it today.  He came to them as he comes to us, beautiful and crafty and tempting with “Did God really say?” and then later he took them as he does us on the “rationalization and/or blame game” track.  Yes, we are called to a resolve to stand against sin; God tells us to do so!  But He never says stand alone. Rather, we have power over it in the Spirit of God Himself and with His armor intentionally placed and strategically used in our battle against it; and He has given us each other to be accountable one to another for our protection and joy!

In the area of sexual temptation, however, He doesn’t say stand in it at all…He says flee!   He knows its power and tells us we aren’t even to toy with it. No, we aren’t even to “mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12)  nor is there to be  “even a hint of sexual immorality” or “coarse joking (Ephesians 3:5).”  That’s not prude; that’s protective and delightfully freeing!  It’s one of the most strategic places the enemy strikes to “steal and kill and destroy” knowing that our God has created this beautiful gift for marriage to bring us deep intimacy and oneness with our spouse.  God knows that sexual intimacy in marriage is intended to be a delight, precious and to be guarded at all costs – before and during marriage; the results in failing to do so have far reaching results.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God blessed them with shame!  What? Shame was a blessing?  Yes, and when we sin and feel shame, it is a good thing because it tells us we are still tender to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  It is evidence that we are hearing that still small voice that calls sin out for what it is and calls us to return to the heart of God and, if we have sinned against another, make reconciliation with them. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (and away from sin) and leaves no regret.”  (2 Corinthians 7:10)   The fearful place is when we feel no shame or, if we do, yet choose to push it down; either way, justifying our “pet sins” robs us of intimacy with God and with each other.

They hid in the garden.  Then, when God came “looking,” they blamed the serpent and each other but refused to name the real problem – themselves.  Not that God really didn’t know where they were; once again, He wanted them to come out, come clean.  He wanted them to be honest, to own up to their guilt so they could be freed from its power.  He wanted to restore intimacy with Himself and with each other and they had to name their sin so they could confess it and turn.

How many times do we hide behind our facades contriving half truths (let’s be honest, lies) and full blown dishonesty with those we love, especially the one with whom we are to be the most transparent, our spouse.  We justify our actions in our head; but, for the believer, the Holy Spirit doesn’t allow us to be settled with hiding from God so, if  we choose to rationalize our sin, we become restless and either outwardly or inwardly we blame everyone else but ourselves.  God wants to re-establish that confident closeness with Himself and with the one to whom we have pledged our lives, but it has to begin with owning our own failures first before Him and then with our spouse.

And notice, though Eve sinned first and they both ultimately did so, God called on Adam as the head of the home, “Adam, where are you?”  (Genesis 3:9)   Of course, women are accountable to God for their own sin and must have their own personal relationships with God through Christ; but, in the home, men are to be leading their wives to the throne of grace; setting the example of repentance and restoration rather than hiding their sin and justifying its existence.

We assume that if we are fully known, we will not be fully loved.  In so doing, we love our reputation and our self righteousness more than we love the one we promised to “love, honor, and cherish.”  The unhindered bond of trust and love can only be enjoyed when we lay ourselves bare before the Lord and then before our spouse; but we do them and ourselves a disservice when we assume they won’t give grace and will love us less.  We show no trust in them and, thus, brick upon brick is layered on the wall of our hearts keeping us from the true intimacy for which we were made. But transparency frees us to forgive!

We are sinners in need of grace and so, we will fail each other; but God never intended for us to use that grace as a license for sin or for minimizing it.  He never intended us to use the too oft spoken, “That’s just who I am; I can’t help It; it’s not that bad” rationale or use our male/female propensities as an excuse for our choices and  offenses. God’s desires for His people is a growing obedience not an intentional defiance.  When we choose to pursue that which is after the heart of God, the hearts of two are emboldened to love better and trust more deeply.  But when we make the foolish choice to remain in or return to entangling indulgences, we create a chasm that lies between.

If we share our sins, struggles, and temptations with no intention of giving them up but appearing to do so, we will go deeper into self centered darkness and secrecy and, not only will trust and intimacy not be restored, they will be seared on an even deeper level. When we choose to cling to those things that build walls in our marriages, we are deceived into choosing love of ourselves more than God and more than our spouse.

But, when we trust enough to confess these to each other and in humble reliance on God, leave them at the cross and tear down the strongholds that keep them active in our lives rather than deliberately continuing in them, we find a renewed intimacy, a deep confidence in each other.  We learn to “bear each other’s burdens” and, thus, create a safe place for each.  In fact, our confidence can be deeper and every aspect of marriage more satisfying and rich, as God intended it.  In James 5:16, God calls us to that transparency, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  There is “freedom in the things we leave behind” as together we run in our pursuit of God’s delight for us, stripping away the sin that so easily drags us down and away from Him and each other.  It refreshes the soul and builds trust in ways like nothing else as we die to ourselves and choose a vulnerability that is rooted in faithfulness to God and our spouse.

Intimacy in marriage breeds confident trust.  Trust begins with truth; it is both a catalyst for and a result of honest intimacy which cannot thrive without complete transparency; no secrets, no walls even if it means putting ourselves before the other, vulnerable.  There is a tenderness and a deep closeness that comes when we humbly lay bare our weaknesses with our spouses with the intent to battle them rather than give excuses for them.  Bringing darkness into the light diffuses its power over us and allows us to battle alongside rather than against each other.  As Francis and Lisa Chan have said in You and Me Forever, “Being in war together may be what keeps us from being at war with each other.”

With intimacy, we grow closer physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  With intimacy, we see our spouses in a more complete way and are able to put aside those hindrances that keep us from loving and trusting well.  We are able to put aside past wrongs, when they are left behind, and look forward to future joy and freedom together!  If, in a marriage, there are deep wounds for which repentance before God has occurred, the pattern broken, and accountability sought, when the enemy rises up to accuse, together we can shut the door on that indictment for it is neither true nor healthy!

In our marriages, we long for intimacy.  So why would we do things that erode it  when Christ has redeemed us not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of it!  Why hide from Him and each other when freedom is found in letting go of our brokenness and acknowledging that before God and before each other!  There is no intimacy in concealing a part of ourselves, just a restless wistfulness and deeper wounds!

Adam and Eve listened to the first lie, then assumed the second and hid; broken intimacy led to lack of confidence in God and each other..

Will we as couples ban those attitudes and actions from our marriages that destroy intimacy?  Will we do whatever it takes and in the power we have in Christ to to see they don’t rise up again?  Will we also choose to trust our spouses with transparency and, as the other, will we choose to respond with grace and love so that marriages that need healing can be healed and those that are already healthy can grow deeper. It is when we are intimate with God, unhindered by unrepentant sin; we are free to have intimacy with our spouse!

Will we know and be known…yet still love?

“Real love is lived in the reality of two sinners LEARNING to love and forgive as each transgresses the other and each forgives. The words ‘I love you’ are easy. The sacrifice of ‘I love you’ is hard because we battle our own selfishness and that is where life is often lived.” (Joseph Wheat)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”            Proverbs 3:3

Intimacy

These hands you made to hold yours, my love  

These feet you shaped to walk with you in our garden

These eyes you placed to gaze upon your face

These lips you formed to kiss my beloved

I was made, I was made for intimacy

 These ears you made to hear your rhythm of love

This voice you placed to sing songs of grace

This hair you wove, you numbered every strand

 This gaze you love, it captures you with a glance

Intimacy is what I need, intimacy is calling me

Jonathan David Helser

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The Steady Gaze – A  Darkness That Needs Light

50 Shades.  Just one of many examples of movies, tv shows, and a myriad of visual “entertainment” where spiritual and physical darkness is cloaked as “innocent romance” yet is anything but that.  Portrayed as a “guilty pleasure” with no consequences.  But, as Ron Hutchcraft says, “There are a thousand shades of dark, inviting us to what looks like a party. But ends up a prison.  A prison Jesus Christ came to save us from. To show us we are more than a body to be used. We are a soul to be cherished. Too precious to degrade or defile. Worth dying for.”

The truth is that it is a symptom as well as an illness; for our culture continues a feeding frenzy to see “just how far” we will go.  Much of our entertainment these days is characterized, on a much more subtle basis, by sexual immorality or right on the outside of the guardrail, along the edge of the cliff.  Most of it is not built on true intimacy but on a cheap imitation that leaves one hungry and assuming that more of the same will satisfy when, in reality, the only sexuality that satisfies is one grounded and lived out in the truth of God’s design!

True intimacy is something to value, to long for, to wait for, and to pursue!

The question “What’s your guilty pleasure?” can really be worded more honestly, “What’s the thing you want to do that is totally contrary to what God wants you to do, but you’re going to do it anyways?” justifying it with phrases such as “It won’t hurt; it will actually help my marriage,” “If I watch, I won’t actually do anything,” “I’m single; I need outlets; no harm,” “Grace gives me freedom.”  They may sound good, but an arrogance, that says we can stand where God says we cannot, drips from every word.

Certainly, there is a difference between the “guilty pleasure” of an unhealthy food that would be better to avoid or taking a break from a laborious chore to do something mindless and that to which God directly or indirectly says “No” particularly in the area of sexuality.  The enemy will tell us from a myriad sources that God is a killjoy who calls sex sinful and that biblical sex is boring. But what God says “No” to is never intended to kill our joy but to increase it.  As the one Who created us, He is far more aware of what will bring us true satisfaction than what we or the world believes. And, indeed, the mind, soul, and spirit are inextricably connected to the mind so that which we “think” on affects every part of us.

If “what’s your guilty pleasure?” in the realm of sexuality is asked with a giggle and a feigned hushed tone, does it somehow make it okay?  And if we can find someone we consider “godly” or “more moral” than us that is willing to engage in it, can we justify being a part of it?  Not if we are allowing Jesus to be Lord of our life and our choices. And, if that one we raise up as “godly” is leading us towards something from which God says to “flee,” then they are not ones we should follow.  They are also guilty before God of being a stumbling block and harming their own walk with Christ.  If we are that one, then God will hold us accountable for leading someone away from His Truth thus hindering their joy in marriage, present or future, and, above all,  keeping them and us from a healthy relationship with the Savior.

For God’s design for sexuality is, as one author puts it, “red hot monogamy!”  Knowing that in marriage you can explore the depths of the soul and body as He planned it, one on one, leaves no room for questions of the heart.  It is a safe harbor where two can increasingly, over time, know and be known and experience great contentment; no breach in the secret places as each protects their own sexuality and that of their spouse or future spouse.

When we set up guardrails for sexual intimacy, as one married or one looking towards marriage in the future, we hold fast to God’s command to “flee sexual immorality” and we protect the genuine. To either not avoid tempting situations or to not run if we find ourselves in them is never positive. To choose a “guilty pleasure” in regards to sexuality, whether it be emotional or physical, of the mind or in time and space, is never helpful nor justifiable!  Stepping over guardrails to flirt with the edge as one relates to sexuality and the opposite sex opens doors that lead to edges that are anything but harmless.

– a look, the clothes we choose, an “innocent” touch, words that stroke the ego

– pornography – visual or literary that makes an indelible mark on our brain

– a movie like 50 Shades and other media that aren’t so quickly dubbed “dangerous;” yet, while  not as deviant, are equally as sexually tempting

– internet sites, magazines, and catalogs that promote a sexual worldview that seems so “freeing” but as God’s word says are “nothing new under the sun”

It all leaves those who act on them wounded and hungry for the “real thing” found only in a sexuality that God designed for marriage. It also wounds those to whom they are connected.  Within marriage, enjoyment can be nurtured, fulfilled, and lived without regret!  It is where the soul and the body become one and true delight follows.  It takes effort, but the joy that follows as each learns to love and serve one another in every aspect, including sexuality, reaps a contentment unparalleled. Certainly, where past sexual sin of any kind has been a part of a life, God is more than able to bring healing and redeem it; but it must be laid at the foot of the cross and left there.  The enemy will say, “what is done is done…might as well do it again.”  Jesus says, “On the cross, I paid the price!  It is finished! Don’t keep picking up sin you have laid here and continue in it.”  We will not find healing and freedom from guilt if we consciously pursue it but will always be “just” missing the joy without reserve if we continue to make choices that, by their very nature, deny the goodness of God for us!

Today we are on the precipice of a temptation that threatens to undo the hearts and minds of so many; a temptation that has the capability of leaving an emotional mark on the soul of individuals and an entire generation.  The danger is greatest for those who minimize its potential and for those who will listen to those who diminish it, choosing to view it themselves. If it isn’t “so bad,” would we want our sons or brothers to be like Christian Grey, in all his sexual deviancy; or our daughters or sisters to date someone like him?  And, as we watch and listen to other forms of media, our filter must always be the Word of God where true freedom is found.  Is it true, right, pure, admirable? There is a pitfall when we “peek” and allow a “hint of sexual immorality” to invade our thoughts, even to just “see for ourselves;” for it is as James 1:14-15 says,  “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  Sin always begins with what we allow in our minds; it is at that point we can choose to either shake our fists at satan and not give up ground or begin the slow fade of giving in to choices that will leave us empty.

And if we truly love family and friends, we will not keep silent about that which has the potential to harm them physically and/or spiritually nor will we join them in things we know break the heart of God.  Rather, we will “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and “expose the fruitless deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11) so that, as far as it depends on us, they will  hear that truth and have one  who will come alongside as a protective hedge to shed light into darkness. And we will not be wounded ourselves or held accountable for being a obstacle to their relationship with Christ.

True delight is found in sexual intimacy with one in marriage. For the one who is single, purity of the body and mind is no less important.  But for the one who claims Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, sexual purity is also tied to an unhindered relationship with God and with other believers.  We are not saved by our actions but by Christ’s work on the cross alone; however, our actions reflect the health of our relationship with Him and they are a barometer of how much we trust, fear, and are in awe of Him; and it is evidence of a life redeemed and transformed.

             “Oh, it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find, in the things we leave behind!” (Michael Card)

**  Further Resources:

As we “think on these things,” we must always do so in light of God’s word not as we perceive them.  These verses from Scripture are a jump off point, a place to start praying for the courage to stand boldly on Truth, on the goodness of God for His created and very much loved ones!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4:8-9

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Corinthians 6:18-20

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”  Hebrews 13:4

“Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity…you are light in the Lord…find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:3, 8, 11

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9 (and the heart will say, there is no harm in much of what we watch and listen to, but we have to ask God what He says…and look at it from His word)

“Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim. 2:22). When you flee evil, you don’t keep turning around and asking, “Is this far enough?”  (Randy Alcorn)

“So much of the power of sin is found in its secrecy, Guard yourself with godly friendships and Gospel accountability. God designed sex to be relational…Let us give ourselves to His design and reclaim godly marriages.”   (David Platt)

Specifically in light of 50 Shades:

http://familylifetoday.com/program/fifty-shades-of-deception/#resources

http://www.authenticintimacy.com/

Special Offer:  Exchange your copy of “50 Shades of Grey” for Dannah Gresh and Judi Slattery’s “Pulling Back the Shades” at   http://pullingbacktheshades.com/

Resources on Pornography for Men and Women:

Tim Challies book recommendations for men and women:  https://www.challies.com/recommendations/pornography

Tim Challies Wife’s Plea to Christian Men: https://www.challies.com/articles/my-wifes-plea-to-christian-men

10 Verses to Help Defeat Addiction (Men and Women): https://husbandrevolution.com/10-verses-help-defeat-porn-addiction/

Fight Pornography Like a Man (A Transparent View): https://fiercemarriage.com/fight-sexual-addiction-like-a-man

Corrosive Influence of Porn on Women: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/pornography-and-virtual-infidelity/corrosive-influence-of-porn-on-wives

A Letter to Sons:  http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-letter-to-my-sons-about-pornography

Men and Women both:  “We need to stop treating pornography like a fly at the picnic and start treating it like a viper in the bedroom.”