A Letter to Josh and Shannon Harris

Dear Josh and Shannon,

I read with sorrow your statements over the past days. My heart grieved for you and for your children. And memories came flooding in of a point years ago when I almost went the way you have chosen.

Things were hard. The formula I had chosen which I thought guaranteed that our family would be spared the trials of this world had failed. My husband and I had persevered through extremely difficult marriage trials (it was the Lord who delivered us from them all). I had homeschooled our children. I had taught them the Word daily and taken them to church and life group faithfully. And yes, I had gone through your books with those of our kids who were old enough to discuss such matters. Yet, the trials that hit our family were no different than those that hit families who had never uttered the name of Jesus–painful, horrible, gut-wrenching events against which I thought we’d bought the insurance. I was wrong.

Like Asaph in Psalm 73, I asked myself what any of this faith had brought me. Not realizing how my hope had truly been (mis)placed, I decided obedience had not worked for me. While I didn’t discard my belief that God exists and that He is good, I decided instead that He simply did not care for me. We, it seemed, were not in the club of people for whom faith worked.

And in every seemingly conceivable way, I walked away. I said goodbye to faith and obedience and everything that mattered. I dove headlong into the world. I would awaken some time after in ICU.

And that is where I met again the grace I’d set aside.

His love encompassed me. His mercy poured out to me. He dispelled every notion I possessed that any part of my righteousness was of my own doing. He vanquished the idea that his love had for a millisecond been based upon my performance or upon my adherence to The Formula into which I’d invested. He taught me the truth of the Gospel.

And that, my friend, is where we were all simply mistaken back then. So many of us were right there with you, Josh and Shannon, buying into the legalism that while Christ had made us clean, it was up to us to keep ourselves clean. We resorted to formulas and works which Paul has assured us cannot and do not save (1 Cor 1:18, Gal 3:3).

Getting back to your books, the problem wasn’t that reserving the gift of sex until marriage was a wrong idea, it was that we put a burden and an untruth upon our children that although Christ had made them clean, the sustaining of their righteousness lay in their own hands. No one can bear such weight–it will take them down. And for a while, we saw that happen. Their very ability (and ours) to abstain from the sin that destroys–the sin the world embraces–is his work and grace! The truth is that it was simply impossible for our kids to maintain a righteousness of their own. None existed.

And that’s what happened to me–my desire for perfection and my unrealistic expectations of living according to a formula rather than trusting in the finished work of Christ took me down. And from the pit into which I’d thrown myself, the Lord picked me up and loved me. One day at a time, He taught me that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

I do not pretend to know the direction this will go for either of you. If you are his, He will not let go of you. If you are not, you will find many things, but peace will evade you. Christ alone is the Prince of peace. And I pray that you encounter Peace. Perhaps this is another index card in The Room which his blood has already covered. Perhaps it is apostasy. But never for a minute doubt that his mercy and grace cannot restore what the locusts have devoured for each of you and your children. If you take nothing else with you, let me assure you that his faithfulness is not dissuaded by our faithlessness. If you have been in true covenant with him, his mercy will reach you.

But be it far from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal. 6:14