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Navigating Love in the Modern World

FAKE LOVE
When Jeff’s parents divorced, he was 10 years old and decided to live with his mom.  Jeff was desperately searching to be accepted especially without a father figure in his life during his teenage years.  “Fatherlessness taught boys like me about life.  We heard about sex from our friends,” says Jeff.  By the time he was 13, Jeff had been exposed to pornography, and it didn’t take long for him to be fully consumed by it.  “Porn actually changed me,” says Jeff.  “Just like a narcotic addiction does.”  There is evidence that shows that porn not only desensitizes a person’s brain but it reprograms it.  Jeff says his generation is the first to have complete access to it any time.  “Porn is a cancer.  It is unequivocally destructive to souls, marriages, relationships, jobs and personal lives,” he says.  He dealt with shame and guilt and lived for others’ approval.  That thinking culminated in a poor view of love, sexuality and women which left Jeff with a string of terrible and unhealthy relationships.   

Alyssa grew up in a Christian home and began following God the summer before her freshman year of high school.  She recalls trying to kiss her first boyfriend behind a school playground and talking to a boy she liked on the phone for hours.  As she grew older, no boys pursued her and Alyssa watched all of her friends who start dating.  She began to compare herself with them and obsess over her weight.  Soon Alyssa developed anorexia, an eating disorder, which continued for six years into her whole college career.  “I thought for so many years that if I was a certain size…some guy would come knocking at my door,” says Alyssa, who waited until she was 22 to start dating!  “Waiting is hard,” she says.  “Think of it as an opportunity to grow our faith.”  While in college, Alyssa sought help to break free from anorexia.  Things didn’t change overnight but her struggle with food lessened with time.  She graduated from college in 2009 and accepted an internship at a church in Maui.

LOVING GOD’S WAY
After his freshman year in college, Jeff reconnected with an old high school friend, Jake, who was a Christian. “Jake was the first person I messaged when I was down and had all these questions about faith, Jesus and the Bible,” says Jeff who began walking with the Lord at that time. Jake’s sister was a friend of Alyssa’s and had a photo of Alyssa on his fridge.  A few months later, Jeff and Alyssa met at Jake’s sister’s wedding.  Things clicked for them right away but Alyssa was headed to Maui and Jeff was on his way to college in Oregon.  They began a long-distance relationship but broke up that next summer.  When they got back together the next summer, Jeff graduated from college and got a job in her hometown. Jeff started creating YouTube videos and speaking at churches.  Then in 2012, Jeff washed Alyssa’s feet then asked her to marry him! “My journey to follow Jesus led me to clearly see that I had been approaching relationships all wrong,” says Jeff.  “I knew that even by my breaking up with Jeff, and living two thousand miles apart, God could still bring us back together,” says Alyssa.  “Nothing can stop God’s plan.”

“Having grown up in the church, and in the era of the purity ring and saving yourself for marriage, I thought my view of sex was 100% spot on,” says Alyssa. She admits it was a struggle for the first year but was reminded that God is a God of wholeness.  Jeff had to fight thoughts about the past, put off shame and guilt and accept that it was good to desire sex again because now it was the way God intended.  Sometimes they are both so busy with their children and schedules.  When they start butting heads, Jeff stops Alyssa for a fifteen-second kiss.  “If you stop and give each other a fifteen-second kiss each day, it forces you to actually stop and just be with that person,” says Alyssa. 

“Instead of the church driving the conversation about sexuality, dating and marriage, we let the culture shape the narrative and we responded,” he says.  Sex is bad.  Don’t hold hands. Your virginity is your identity.  “People started defining themselves by what they were against.  This is always a bad idea…it doesn’t last,” says Jeff.  “If we are letting our bodies say something (I want to be with you) our lives aren’t willing to (not married, so not fully one), it will backfire and short wire.” Sex within marriage actually healed parts of Jeff.  “When it’s done right, it can mend.”

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Guest Info

Credits

Authors of several books, their latest: Love That Lasts, Nelson 2017

Jeff: Spoken Word Artist, creator of YouTube podcasts (Why I Hate Religion received 32+ million views)

2 children

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