Gary & Melissa Ingraham
Series: Origins of Innocence
Good morning everybody. It’s good to see you. Thanks for being here today. We're going to be in our Origins of Innocence series again. We've been talking about the innocence or really what God has created us for; the hopes, the dreams that Adam and Eve experienced and that, in the end, the Bible says we will experience, and also teaches that we're supposed to experience even now in Christ Jesus. And so we’re wrestling with that and talking about the innocence there.
We’ve also been talking about the shame that that keeps us from, or diminishes, our ability to walk with God in the way that Jesus made possible. And one of the ways that shame seems to get a grip on most of our lives is through our sexuality.
So today we're going to have Gary and Melissa Ingraham come up here. They're going to share with us some of their journey through life to Jesus him there journeys since they've met Jesus and in particular they've devoted their lives into helping people with experience brokenness and sexuality find healing and wholeness in Christ. I'm very excited about this plan was a while ago they've shared with our staff, they share all over the country. Will you please please welcome them and and listen closely to what they have to say.
Good morning it’s great to be with you. Full house. One of things we wanted to just start off with is just to explain a little bit how important for us the series we're talking about right now actually is, and how it connects to this idea of original innocence and the origins of innocence. To talk about that, one of the things that we are frequently doing as a ministry is talking about the reality of original glory. That’s kind of the foundation for a lot of what we do. And we do work with individuals or, more than anything, we actually are working to equip the church how do you actually talk about — how do you actually develop opportunities for people to be known in their brokenness instead of most people coming into church leading double lives, putting their best foot forward in a sense, and casting an image of who they are. It’s all the good stuff and we keep all the other stuff back here. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure. And we want to see people integrated in terms of who they really are, and for the church to minister to them in that specific way.
We’ve heard a lot in this series from Genesis. And one of the key verses for our ministry is Genesis 1:27, which says, “Created in the image of God, male and female he created them.”
And if you’ve grown up in church, and maybe you haven’t, we’ve heard this over and over. And one of the things that we encourage, that we challenge men and women to think of is, what does that verse actually mean in your life? What difference does it make? What impact does it have? Whether for good or not. Gender, being created in the image of God, male and female, has never been more confused than it is today. Would you all agree?
Whether that’s gender confusion, whether that’s identity confusion, whether that’s power struggles between men and women, that’s been going on since the garden.
Yeah. Absolutely. I love some of the writings of John Eldridge. One of the statements that he makes that I think is so powerful is “I dare say that we’ve heard a bit about original sin, but not nearly enough about original glory.”
Haven’t we heard a lot about original sin? And we need to, right? I mean, we struggle with that. As we are made in the image of God, male and female, that is our foundation of identity. For every human being on the planet, saved or unsaved, we are first and foremost made in the image of God, male and female, in very distinct ways. That’s God’s intention.
But we also need to know that in us, even though we struggle with sin, and sin is a part of the fiber of who we are, it is a part of our identity, we actually, in Christ, can live in a way that is beyond and outside of the confines of — in other words, we’re not just sinners saved by grace.
One of our favorite authors, Andrew Komisky, writes this in his book Strength and Weakness, “In Paradise, the power struggles now common to male-female relationships did not exist. There Adam and Eve complemented one another in a way that revealed the best of each. I believe Adam, in his greater physical strength, loved Eve powerfully, encircling her softness in his desire to secure her in love. And Eve, in her more feeling heart, responded to his strength with powerful love, a love that awakened his heart and satisfied the emptiness within him.”
And you know what I wrote in the margin the first time I read that? “Wow.” Like, I want that. And that had not been my experience,
So, if you’re following along in the notes, the first fill in, we’ve already mentioned is that we are created in the image of God, male and female. We don’t want to just quickly gloss over that. I know I already mentioned it already. But a lot of our ministry is based on the reality that we are not just human beings made in God’s image. Right? Women have an expression of the image of God, an imprint of the image of God that men don’t have. And men have an expression of the image of God that women don’t have.
And we do great harm and dishonor to one another, as well as dishonor to who God is when we don’t learn how to value the differences between men and women. And we’ve done a lot of that actually. Misogeny is certainly a problem not only in the culture, but in the church.
And so this leads perfectly into just a little bit of my story, which is that, when I first heard the idea that there were differences between men and women, in my brokenness, what I heard was that women were less than men. Just watching my parents struggle in their marriage, being exposed to pornography at an early age, cable tv. Basically, I viewed women as to be used and abused by men. And frankly, I did not like being a woman. I couldn’t have told you that back then, but I internalized a very negative view of women.
So the first time I heard this idea, I heard a pastor preaching out of Genesis, I mean, I just got mad. I later learned I get mad easily. It’s a sign that there’s something going on, let’s just put it that way,.
One of the things I don’t think Melissa is going to mention—we could talk for hours—one of the things Melissa talks about is the fact is that, at a point in her life, she hated women. She hated men. She was basically a hate crime waiting to happen. It’s was kind of a tough place to be in. At one point in her life she couldn’t even have told you that. I think there’s many of us going through life who feel really disconnected from ourselves, who feel…and the next fill-in is about shame. Understanding the power of shame. And that’s what Melissa is talking about. Some of the early formations and early experiences, when there’s trauma involved, when some of those experiences are connected to deep emotion, they don’t just work through our system and we forget about them. They actually stay in us. We remember them.
For me, early shame set in. I was an “oops“ baby. I’m the youngest of five kids. My mom and dad did not plan on, nor did they want any more children. So I came along five years after my next oldest sibling. And they were not happy. We had a poor family and they were not looking for one more mouth to feed, they weren’t looking to pour emotion into one more kid. So, honestly, the very first experience was this reality of not being wanted even before being born. So, then my mom coming around to loving me. My dad and I not really bonding and connecting.
Another early experience for me was about five or six years old, some older neighborhood boys invited me to play with them and their only desire to have me over, their mom and dad weren’t home and they knew where their dad’s hardcore porn stash was, so they got it and they flipped page after page after page for this five or six year old boy to look at this stuff. And I tell you that I walked out of that home a very different child than when I walked in. And what I experienced is nothing today to what many kids experience.
So shame set in. Some other things happened, this awakening of sexuality that should have never been awakened at that point. I started crossing wires in terms of what is intimacy and how do I get my needs met. And I became really confused with sexuality.
But shame is one of the most powerful and negative feelings we can experience. And we will do almost anything to a void it
And just a quick definition of shame is: Feeling uniquely flawed without hope for change, So its not guilt, which is “I did something wrong,” but “there is something wrong with me.” And as a result of our life experiences, some of us are carrying around a tremendous amount of shame. And that impacts how we relate to other people. It impacts our workplaces, our schools. It impacts how we relate to God. Often we can wind up performing, doing, doing, doing in order to be accepted.
For me, I went looking for love in relationships with men. I went looking for a sense of security and identity in relationship. And when that left me unfulfilled, I wound up in college in an emotional and sexual relationship with a woman. And I thought this is what I’ve been looking for my whole life.
And so, being motivated by this emptiness deep within, this longing with these needs that God created us with, that have not been met for whatever reason, can drive us to do really crazy things.
Yeah. And the thing about shame, too, it’s not just about things that I have done. Melissa made a distinction between guilt, which is a very good thing. But shame isn’t just about “I’ve done something and I don’t just feel guilt about it, but I feel like I’m uniquely flawed. But it often isn’t what I’ve done, but what someone else has done against me.
We might know, logically, the abuse that happened, whatever that may be, whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual abuse that happened to us. Or other kinds of things. Labeling of other kids toward us. I was constantly called fag or queer in school, and just being pushed outside the world of boys and men. Not fitting in in terms of sports or any of that kind of stuff. I wasn’t culturally accepted as a boy or a guy. And so, getting shoved outside of that. And we can even know, “This wasn’t my fault,” experientially, We have an intellectual understanding, right? Well, we also have a an experiential understanding that we live out of, to a deeper degree.
We can chuck the verses that we know. We can chuck the theology that we know at times, and we function out of this experiential place which is often ruled by shame. What shame often produces (and this is that next fill-in along with shame) “a false self.” Shame can produce a false self. And here’s what I mean by that. When I talk about this idea that we in the church often live double lives, that’s what I’m talking about. We present a good false self.
When I was living in the Chicago area, I wound up growing up in a Christian home, and then going to Bible college, getting booted out of Bible college because of all the emotional stuff I was struggling with. I remember thinking, “God I hate you and I hate your church. I want nothing to do with this any more.” I found my first gay bar. I felt like I’d finally found my people. Like Melissa said, it was the most powerful experience to feel like, at 19 years of age, I finally fit in somewhere. Because I didn’t fit in my family, I didn’t fit in the church, I didn’t fit in the culture of men, typically. So I fit in here. For quite a long time that was pretty euphoric.
But then, God was drawing me back, and calling me back and eventually I began to see that he wasn’t the ogre I believed he was, growing up, that wasn’t a slave master that demanded that we love him. He’s different than that. So I began to surrender my life to him. But I went back into homosexuality after a number of years of being out of that. Lots of reasons why.
I was now not just a religious kid who had said the sinner’s prayer when I was a child, which frankly, meant nothing because there was no surrender in it. I was concerned about buying fire insurance essentially, but there was no surrender in any of it. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I actually surrendered my life to Jesus.
I was living in Chicago at this time I was in church. I was also really wrapped up in going to gay bars and some other things too. I was going to a Bible study actually. So I’d go to the Bible study. Because I had grown up in church, because I’d gone to Bible college, I could talk Bible better than any of these people. So that’s what the conversations were about. We were doing this book study. They were trying to love me and care about me, but it didn’t go very deep, frankly, which is often the case in some of our Bible studies. I’m not against reading the Bible, don’t say that I am.
But what I would do is I would leave this thing and I would go out to a gay bar afterward. And I would hate myself the entire time I was going. I’d think, “What is wrong with you? Here God is giving you this opportunity, you’re around people who love him. They’re trying to love you.” And yet, what I realized a couple of years later is that I was emotionally starved even after being with them. Why? Because I was projecting an image. It’s the good false self.
And even though your experience might not be as dramatic as mine, or ours, maybe it is, we tend to project a good false self because of shame. Does that make sense? Yeah.
Unfortunately, in Christian circles, we applaud the false self. Because usually, that part of us is the one that wants to do. We’re there every time the doors are open. We volunteer for everything. We have trouble saying ‘no.’ And so we perform and perform and perform in order to be loved and accepted. But it only goes so deep.
And another quote in here, Andrew talks about shame being the raincoat of the soul, repelling living water—repelling love, really, God’s love, from exactly where it needs to go.
And so we need to understand the power of shame and the false self. What we’re really talking about, fill-in number 3, is that some of the greatest contributors to shame are wounds. So these are experiences that we’ve had that continue to affect us today. So it’s a big lie that time heals all wounds. Time heals nothing. It doesn’t. And for those of you who have experienced something hurtful, (and all of us have to one degree or another), if you think about it, it probably feels like it happened yesterday. What we need is to be able to bring those experiences into the light of community and to be able to say, “This is what happened to me. And this is how I feel about it as a result. And by the way, this is how I feel about God as a result.”
I really struggled to believe that God was present for me—to believe that God loved me, that if I came to him with my needs that he would meet those needs. Because I had spent so long trying to meet my own needs. I had been very self-sufficient, a lot of self-protection, and I was exhausted by the time I came to Christ. That was in my early twenties where I heard for the first time that just because I felt something, it didn’t make it right. I had been totally living by my feelings. And it felt so right to be with this woman. But I was still empty on the inside and that was just growing. The Lord revealed that he was actually the answer. And so I surrendered to Christ. And then everything was perfect. Not even close. Not even close.
And that leads us into God’s remedy, which is fill-in the blank number 4. God’s remedy is confession and community. And honestly, that’s what I needed. That’s what we all need. If we go all the way back to the Creation account, God said, “It is not good that man is alone.” We were created for significant, deep relationships with other people. We cannot do this just God and us. It doesn’t work. Yes, we need a strong relationship with God. Yes, we need to build that relationship. But often, when we’re wrestling with the types of things we’re talking about, we’re blocked. It’s the shame or it’s the guilt that blocks us sin our relationship with God.
What I needed was to actually say to other women, “This is where I’m struggling.” And I had so much shame that I couldn’t even say the word lesbian or masturbation or any of the other things that I was struggling with. And I needed to begin to open up my struggles with that.
A clear example is one night I went to a Bible study, I had been invited, which was awesome. All it took was an invitation and I came. But I was dealing with a lot of shame. And they were worshiping and I felt so much shame, I felt like I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t be in the presence of God because I felt so much shame. So I went to get up to leave. And one of the women who lived in the house kind of intercepted me at the door. She said, “What’s wrong?” And she took me to the back living room. I told her I was dealing with so much shame. And she actually took the time to sit with me, and opened the Bible, and read out of Romans 8. She put my name in there. She personalized it for me. That was a stone of remembrance for me. I will never forget the Lord using her, using another person to break through that shame that I was feeling.
Let me just take a quick step back to the wounds piece and then step forward with where Melissa’s talking about in the community piece.
Another sort of nursery rhyme that was around when I was a kid, I don’t think it’s said all that much these days. But the idea that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” What a load! I mean, that’s so ridiculous. It’s actually the exact opposite. Bones will heal. But unless we’re being very intentional, what we don’t recognize is those labels, those names will actually damage us deeply. They stay in us until we actually begin to do something about them.
When it comes to this idea of wounding, I think it’s hard particularly for men, and for some women too, to be able to actually stop and think, “I’ve been wounded.” And we are not about a victim mentality at all. We don’t believe that we are victims. We don’t believe anyone should live as a victim. But we have to get honest about what actually happened and how I related to what happened. And the fact that something happened back when you were ten, or fifteen or whatever, six years old, the fact that you might fifty or sixty years old right now—again, time by itself doesn’t heal us.
If we’re in relationship, many of us are married, and many of us as men, and as women too, but many of us as men have difficulty really entering into emotional intimacy with our spouse. I can’t tell you, and Melissa is a licensed counselor, and I was on staff as a pastor for twelve years in upstate New York—I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to, women, who said, “He couldn’t keep his hands off me before we got married. We said I do and it’s almost like, what on earth happened? You don’t even want to be with me.”
Or maybe the physical part is still present but there’s very little emotional support or care. There’s a reason for that. What we’ve done oftentimes is we’ve damaged our own, or through the sins of other people against us, our hearts have been damaged. We don’t trust very well anymore. It’s so essential that we actually begin to look at first and foremost, what are the wounds.
We know so many men and women—the stories that I hear of men who have said, “My dad never even told me he loved me.” How is that even possible? “He wasn’t physically affectionate with me at all.” “I never heard that he was proud of me. He didn’t come to my games.” Or maybe, “He did come to my games. I did everything almost exactly right, but I had one failure and that’s all he pointed out. That was the life I grew up in.” That has an impact on us in profound ways. Those are wounds. Those and many other things are wounds sitting with us.
What our hope is, as you’re listening to us and as we’re wrapping up and we’re talking about the solution, what are those for you? What is the Holy Spirit, right now in your life, in the silence of your own heart, as you’re listening to us, what are the two or three wounds that you recognize, “That still bothers me. It still is in the way of the relationships that I care about most. And I’m having difficulty breaking through.”
When it comes to this, Melissa already mentioned the solution. James 5:16 is very clear. It’s not a suggestion. “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you might be healed.”
The truth is, (can we be honest?) —what we’ve found in terms of inner healing of these areas that are wounded, the only prescription God gives to us is community and confession. That’s the fill-in there. The final one. The only prescription he gives to us. The truth is, it’s the last thing we want to take. We will take anything else. We will take alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex. We will take food. We will even try to do some good things. We want to take anything but that need to actually get with somebody else in the Body of Christ and begin to open up and get real about what’s going on inside of us.
In the Protestant church, we haven’t done such a great job of confession. We may say “God forgive me,” (in our prayer closet), “about whatever I did last night.” Or whatever. “Yelling at my wife on the way to church.” And then we pull into the parking lot and we’re pasting smiles on.
Or yelling at my husband on the way to church. Either one. It’s equal opportunity. Or yelling at our kids.
Yes. Well, I was just about to tell on myself. Or driving crazy, as our good friend will tell you. But just actually saying, owning what we’ve done or what was done against it. I mean there’s something about naming it and bringing it into the light. And then, because we are a priesthood of believers, we can actually say, “In the name of Jesus, you’re forgiven for that.”
How many of us need to hear that in areas of deep shame or guilt—that we’re actually forgiven in Jesus’ name. We might know it, but we haven’t experienced it. And so that transaction—with women a trusted sister, or for men with another brother, it’s so important.
In this program that we really love called Living Waters, and Melissa got involved in that many years ago—and in 2004 I went to my first training, it’s a 20-week program but the training is a week—and I actually met Melissa at the first training that I went to. And we were both working out our stuff, we’re both working out what does it mean to be a man in God’s image; what does it mean to be a woman in God’s image. As much as I, for a season in my life, tried to embrace what has become very popularized now, which is pro-gay theology; as much as I wanted that, I knew that Scripture was very clear, not just about homosexuality, but about sex outside of marriage, which is a rampant issue in the church—and pornography addiction and all that, rampant issues in the church. A far bigger issue—heterosexual brokenness in the church—than LGBT stuff, honestly.
But I knew that being a man made in his image was not me being with another man, as much as it felt like that was my identity. As I began to just lay down my will and say, “Lord, I want to surrender.” I’d made a mess of my life. That was me coming to Jesus in my early twenties. My salvation wasn’t just this nice, neat little prayer on the Roman road, like I’d tried before. I said, “Jesus I’ve made such a disaster of my life. If you want what’s left, you can have it.” And he took me up on that.
But it was in this group of Living Waters or similar groups where we could sit down and meet as men together and do what we all were scared to death to do. And I’m talking about big, strapping, muscle-bound guys, farmers in upstate New York. There was this was this one guy I was connected with, we wound up teaching something later in life. He was like 6’2” 300 lbs probably. He was the owner of a local bait and gun shop. He was in one of my men’s groups. Do you think this guy wanted to actually open up in front of him about my stuff? Forget about it, right? But you know what? This guy was willing to say, “You know what, Gary? I don’t know what it’s like to feel like that, to have same-sex attraction, but I sure know what it feels like to almost lost my marriage because of adultery.”
The truth is, most of us in the church won’t even say that to other people, because, again, we’re living out the good, false self. We’re not even giving people hope Everybody thinks that everybody else has it together except for them. When you come to Jesus, you come broken, but the rest of the Christian life is about acting like you don’t need a Savior anymore. And so we desperately need this open communion. 1 John 1:7
“But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
It’s really this process of walking in the light and we have fellowship with one another that we’re living out. Who Christ created us to be. He died … all those songs we sang this morning, everything Jesus has done for us works itself out in community.
If you go two verses later, in 1 John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins He (God) is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That’s an awesome verse. But we love to pull it out of context. The entire context of that has to do with what Melissa just read in 1 John 1:7. That verse of 1 John 1:9 is couched in community. But we love to pull it out and say, “All I have to do is this little confession thing between me and God.” Forgiveness comes to us. But healing comes through community. We see that over and over again in Scripture.
The last verse we want to touch on is Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called today, so that your hearts are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
I’m absolutely convinced that if we, as Christians, not the world, but we as Christians, if we could actually have our souls and our emotions x-rayed like we do on an x-ray of our bones, I believe that we’d actually be like skin and bones, like an anorexic person, because we don’t know what it’s like to have regular meals of emotional encouragement, of deep love, of affection. We don’t know what that’s like fully. We get the little crumbs here and there. We are so ashamed that we actually have need for love and care. Even as men, we’re actually so ashamed that we have those needs that we push away from it
So what we want to leave you with more than anything else is, hopefully, prayerfully there has been a stirring in your heart about what are some of the unfulfilled needs in your life. God’s prescription for that is community and confession.
Father, we do just come to you right now. I’m reminded of an Amy Grant song, the name of it is Innocence Lost and there’s a line in there that says, “I want my innocence back.” And later she says, “I can be pure again.” God, I thank you that you didn’t just call us to — your power enables us. You grace is empowerment and it calls us from our deepest, darkest places, regardless of what it is. In our sexuality, when it gets broken, when our hearts get broken, when we feel like we are totally addicted and wrapped up, whatever it is, God. You want and your desire is to call us out of that place, to empower us, but, Lord, you call us into community. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters that really do need — they’re bound. They’re struggling. But they need to be known. We all need to be known. I pray, Lord, for them to embrace courage in the face of their fear, the courage that you are putting out there for them, in the face of their fear, to reach out and to say, “Yes, I want to be well and I’m going to pursue help and support to do that.” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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