Author and Advocate for Healthy Sexuality and Spirituality

Category Archives: The Passion Principles

Getting Past The Past- Part 2


I recently spoke to a group of young college women, some married, some single.  During a breakout session, we conducted an anonymous question-and-answer time where students submitted index cards with whatever question they’d like to ask.  After almost twenty years of speaking on the topic of healthy sexuality, nothing really surprises me much anymore, but this question both surprised and blessed me:

How are you so perky and cheery about life?  I mean, you were sexually abused before you were even a teenager, and experienced so many broken sexual relationships before you even finished high school!  How can you possibly experience freedom? I feel as if it doesn’t exist.
Here’s why I’m so perky and cheery about life, in spite of the sexual trauma I’ve experienced and the mistakes I’ve made:  I know who I am in Christ! 
My biggest question to you, brothers and sisters, is: Do YOU know who you are in Christ?
When Jesus died on the cross, He did not say, “Forgive them for their sins — except for the sexual ones!  Those are too big, so I’m not dying for those!”  It sounds ridiculous to even consider Jesus saying such a thing, doesn’t it?  I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the blood that Jesus shed is more than sufficient to cleanse me of every sin I’ve ever committed, and even every sin I’ll ever commit in the future.  In fact, that blood is sufficient enough to cover all sin, throughout all of history, so why would I think my sin is so special that it was surely excluded from His sacrificial act on the cross that day?  Absurd.  I’m covered.  I’m good.  I’m free.  And that’s why I’m perky and cheery!  Who has the time to be all down about life when we’ve been given such a miraculous mulligan?  We get to “start over” on any given day because God’s mercies are new every morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23)!
Are you ready to be covered?  Good?  Free?  Perhaps even perky and cheery about life, marriage, and relationships?  Then all you need to do is have faith that the blood Jesus shed on the cross is more than sufficient to cover all of your sin as well. And I can promise you — it is!  If you’re unsure, well, that says a lot more about you than it does about God, doesn’t it?  It really is a matter of simply receiving a gift that’s already been given, ripping the scarlet letter off of our sweaters, and doing a big, fat victory dance because we are free!  Woohoo!
PRAYER:  Lord, help me be excited about the life of freedom I am living because of the price you paid for my past!
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Getting Past The Past- Part 1

One particular day we came across a wedding party while walking on the beach in Australia.  The bridesmaids had their dress hems lifted high and were making an elaborate design in the sand with their bare feet by walking around in a huge spiral. The following day I walked past the same area and looked for evidence of their sand art, but it had been erased by the high tide. No traces of it remained-only memories.


At that point, I wished every individual and couple who’d ever confided in me that they’re still struggling with their pasts could be there with me-women like Felicity, who’ve had four abortions . . . or Margaret, who wasted eight precious years in an affair with a married man . . . or men like Carson, who lost his job due to looking at porn at work . . . or Evan, who occasionally solicited a prostitute on his lunch hour.  Oh, if I had a dime for every person in the world with a past sexual regret, I’d be a very wealthy woman!


Why did I want to gather all of these previous coaching clients on that beach?  For an object lesson. I want to say to them: “Whatever we’ve done in the past, whatever our spouse has done in the past, it’s been washed away! The tides of time and God’s forgiveness have erased the past, so why do we pretend it’s still following us around like our own shadow?”


If you’re still obsessing over your past, know that it’s gone!  Don’t let memories of the past haunt you. Don’t let yesterday’s pain rob you of today’s pleasure! And please understand that not letting the past haunt you does not equate to forgetting the past entirely-the notion that we can “forgive and forget” may be good advice, but it’s hard to do when we’re the ones who live with the memories of our own mistakes.    


As a recovering relationship addict, I never want to forget where I’ve been or what I’ve experienced!  Why?  Because it’s the best insurance policy against me ever returning to that lifestyle!  I want to vividly remember the pain, the shame, the confusion, the desperation.  If I didn’t, it would be too easy to blindly fall back into that pit of sexual and emotional compromise again and again.  Someone who’s never been burned is far more likely to foolishly play with fire than someone who’s been there, done that, and never wants to be burned again.


In addition, I like being able to identify with another person’s struggles, and empathize with them in a way that few counselors or friends may be able to do.  My graduate degree from the School of Hard Knocks makes me a credible confidant and wise teacher.  I dearly love the work that I do and the difference that I feel it makes in people’s lives, marriages, and families.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s on the planet, as I’ve learned that a person’s sordid past is often the most direct pathway toward God.


PRAYER:  Lord, remind us daily that our past is removed as far as the east is from the west.  



Excerpted from The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage  by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved. Published by W Publishing Group, and imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.