This past Saturday my wife and daughter baked a cake together. Not just any cake, a Funfetti cake, the kind with sprinkles on the inside and outside. My wife cut each of us a piece, I poured everyone a glass of cold milk, and our evening was set. That was Saturday.
Sunday came and there was plenty of cake leftover so I ate a piece.
Monday, I came home from work, and had some before dinner.
Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a piece at some point in the day.
And I’m sure I’ll indulge before I go to bed tonight.
Like most people, I like cake, but the only reason I’ve eaten cake for the last 5 days is because it’s been in my kitchen. The cake is there, so I eat it. Even if eating cake daily is something I don’t want to do, I’m more inclined to do it when it’s there.
For the past few years, I’ve used this cake image to describe the temptations we face in our lives. I usually say something like this, “You can’t eat the cake if it’s not in the kitchen.” I find this idea incredibly freeing because if I choose to keep the ‘cake’ out of my kitchen, it will be way more difficult to eat it. That is to say, even if I want to, it won’t be an option because it’s not there.
Let’s sit with that idea for a bit today – cakes in the kitchen. Of course, there are several ‘cakes’ we could think about, but for those of us who are married, the potential temptation of opposite-gender relationships is certainly an important one to take seriously. Let’s look at three practical ways to keep the ‘opposite gender cake’ out of our kitchen as a means of protecting our marriages and ministries. These are three principles that my wife and I have decided to live by in ministry.
You will never find me alone with anyone of the opposite sex, except of course my wife and family members. This includes private places like my home and car, and public places like a restaurant or park. Even if alone time with another woman was innocent (i.e. driving with a woman from work to an offsite meeting) you must remember that to an outsider looking in, perception IS reality.
By not being alone, you will refuse people the opportunity to think, say, or accuse you of anything inappropriate. Conversely, if you choose to be alone, you are inviting accusations. Regarding ministry, I recommend holding necessary meetings with the opposite sex at your church during office hours when others are around. For non-private conversations, consider using a public church space like the lobby. For confidential conversations in your office, keep the door open unless you have a window.
Not In My Phone
Sadly, we’ve all heard this story:
A husband comes home from work and puts his phone down on the kitchen table. While he’s in the other room, his wife hears his phone vibrate several times. She picks up his phone to see who keeps calling or texting, and then … she finds out.
Most of us have our phone with us at all times, which means the opportunity to connect privately and regularly with the opposite sex is always there. Because I’ve I have heard one too many stories of people losing or damaging their marriages over what began as a text exchange, I choose to not store numbers of the opposite sex in my phone. The only female numbers that you will find in my phone are my wife, mom, and sisters. I used to store the numbers of the woman that I worked and served with at church, but I’ve chosen to delete those. If you do this, don’t be surprised when you begin to get texts that start with, “Hey, this is _____” because he or she will know that you have chosen to safeguard yourself in this way and will respect that decision.
Not Keeping It From Home
Several years ago, a female high school student began to seek my attention in an unhealthy way. Upon arriving to our high school program, she would come find me and tell me all about her week. Before leaving, she would find me again and ask for an awkward side hug. After a few weeks of this, I recognized that she was seeking out and enjoying my attention, so I chose to intentionally distance myself from her for a period of time. But, I didn’t stop there. I went home and told my wife what was going on. I told her the student’s name, pointed her out at church, shared exactly what she was doing, and what I was going to do to about it. This kind of situation has only happened a handful of times, but each time, I went home and told my wife about it. Granted, your spouse’s view of the person seeking your attention may be negatively impacted, but it’s far better for your spouse to lose trust in that student, volunteer, or coworker, than to lose trust in you.
Keeping this ‘cake’ out of your kitchen doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t have God honoring, life giving relationships with the opposite sex. Rather, these practices will help ensure that you are free to ENJOY the men and women that God has placed in your life in a WISE and HEALTHY way.