A vibrant quilt has adorned a wall in our home for many years. The artist took bright swatches of fabric and cut hundreds of tiny squares and triangles. She created a lattice pattern through which you gaze into a luminous, iridescent garden. I view her quilt as an invitation to pause and catch a glimpse into a paradise. The latticework encloses, protects, provides structure, and reveals wonders. The garden within creates an impression of flower and color, air and light, life and pleasure. It gives a small picture of our God’s two great works: the goodness of his creation and the goodness of his salvation.
Both creation and salvation embrace human sexuality. Sex is an elemental good in God’s fruitful work in creation. Our sexuality is a renewed good by his fruitful working in salvation. Imagine sexuality transformed into a garden of wise love, safety, wisdom, self-control, and delight.
Imagine growing up within the protection of the lattice. Children are protected from the stains of betrayal, molestation, and assault. Sons and daughters are not de led and sexualized by exposure to lewd humor and to suggestive or pornographic images. The sexually immature are cared for.
Imagine the dignity of sexual restraint as the first lesson of budding adulthood. We enter sexual maturity as singles, not marrieds. Friends, brothers, sisters, children, parents, and strangers are never meant to become objects of sexualized attention. Every willing learner must learn (and often relearn) broad- spectrum self-control as a core expression of love. And those who eventually marry will find that there are seasons where sexual restraint is the form love takes.
Imagine sexual desire freed and focused within the union of husband and wife. There is love, pleasure, and beauty in sexual expression during those seasons when it is a core facet of marital fidelity and love. Our sexuality was designed to be a willing servant of love. It becomes distorted by our willfulness or our fear. It is being remade into a willing servant of love. Love makes sexuality like a laser beam: its power under control, its intensity focused, nothing wasted or promiscuously scattered.
God began a comprehensive good work in you. He will complete what he has begun. Wrongs are made right, and, to quote Julian of Norwich, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” You will flourish in a garden of safety and joy.
How can this ever be? We become so stained with lewd de- sire and our own transgressions. And the transgressions of others so darken us with hurt and fear. How can all wrongs be made right? Jesus, the merciful, steadily intervenes. To the indulgent, he brings forgiveness, covering perverse pleasures with new innocence. To the frightened, he brings refuge, the name that calms our fears and bids our sorrows cease. There is plea sure and protection in Christ, God’s inexpressible gift. Sexuality becomes wise, and wisdom is that gift of God to which nothing else you desire can compare (Prov. 3:13–15).
The lovely quilt is an object lesson in creation and re-creation.
Needing a contrasting object lesson, I stopped in to talk with my auto mechanic. He shed a greasy rag from the trash bin at the back of his garage and handed it to me. Unnamable filth had soaked through that scrap of fabric. Ground-in, oily dirt. If your hands are clean, you don’t really feel like touching such a sordid rag. If you must handle such an object, you pick it up by one corner between thumb and forefinger, holding it out away from you at arm’s length. The filthy rag gives us a second, all-too-familiar picture of sexuality. Sex soaks up dark, dirty stains. We must face ground-in evils if we are to repair what’s wrong with us and help others with what’s wrong with them. You understand why Jude evokes an unpleasant sense of wariness even amid his call to generous-hearted love: “To others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 23 NIV).
Greasy-rag experiences turn sex itself into a darkness of renegade desires, lingering hurts, haunting shame. The darkness and stain reside not in being created sexual beings but in the doubled evil of the human condition. Evils arise from within us; evils fall upon us. We misuse our bodies, and our bodies are misused by others.
How is your life turning out with regard to sexuality? A garden in the lattice? A greasy rag from the trash bin? Here is Jesus’s personal purpose statement as he goes about his good work in us: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
 Julian of Norwich, Revelation of Divine Love (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1927), chap. 27.
Content taken from Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.