Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sex and the Gospel, Pt. 5

At least, I think this is part 5. It could be part 6. In any case, I'm once again hoping to proceed very carefully in approaching this very important, very personal, and very loaded topic. "Topic" isn't even quite the right word because our sexuality as humans isn't just a topic-- it's part of who we are-- that's what I mean when I say "personal."  It's part of who we are as persons. And sadly (but for some obvious and good reasons), this "topic" isn't addressed or even welcomed in so much faith-based dialogue that a blog title like "Sex and the Gospel" probably causes a lot of head scratching. But what does the gospel address, if not all of who we are as persons? There's an old hymn we all sing at Christmas time-- 

"No more let sin and sorrows reign, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found." 

The curse has most certainly been found in our sexuality. Sexual brokenness-- whether in the form of shame, fear, confusion, or isolation-- touches most of our lives in a very deep way. As I shared in an earlier post, it not only touched my life, but molded it. I grew up with some pretty distorted perceptions about myself, men and women in general, and about what relationships are supposed to look like. If the gospel were merely an intellectual idea that I assent to, it wouldn't be able to change any of that. But the gospel is more than an idea-- it's a Person. Jesus Christ has entered into relationship with me and has transformed (and continues to transform) my deepest perceptions and patterns. He is changing me, not just the "religious affiliation" box I check on a government survey. 

This week in church our pastor preached out of Genesis 3. That's near the very beginning, when sin first entered the world and broke things. Since sin is first and foremost a relational issue-- a breach of intimacy between God and us-- sin broke our relationship with God. And since all of creation hinges on  relationship with God, sin broke everything's relationship to everything! Here's what I mean. 

Adam and Eve once had perfect, unhindered intimacy with God, but sin disconnected them from Him. They once had beautiful oneness and complementarity with each other, but sin taught them to throw each other under the bus in order to save their own skin. They once had no reason to hide. They were perfectly known and perfectly loved. (I mean, anyone who can walk around naked mid-day must feel pretty comfortable with him or herself!) But sin taught them to feel shame just for existing, and to cover themselves. Sin taught them that they couldn't really be vulnerable before God or each other. The break with God also estranged them from each other and from themselves.

So, what does this have to do with sex? Well, everything! As sexual beings, we can't experience wholeness if we're at war with ourselves. If I feel shame about my own body, I'm not going to have a very positive experience of my sexuality, either in relationship with another or just looking in the mirror every morning. I was created to rejoice in what God created-- me!-- not to look at myself with loathing or embarrassment. Sin teaches me to hide myself. Now  the old fig-leaf technique isn't exactly en vogue anymore, but there are lots of "new" ways to do the same "old" thing they were doing in the garden once sin entered. And honestly, my sin is reason for shame. But the gospel has dealt with that sin. Because of God's forgiveness and restoration-- no matter how shameful my past sin is-- I can be fully known and fully loved-- enough to reverse the effects of sin in my life. Enough to look in the mirror without contempt, for example. 

As sexual beings, we can't experience wholeness if we're at war with each other. If I am disconnected from my spouse, I'm not going to be able to enter into the ultimate relational act with him with much integrity.  I was created to be fully present-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually-- in a sexual relationship with my husband, and fully giving. Sin teaches me to throw him under the bus to save my own skin, even in the bedroom. Now again, I'm sure the ways this heart-attitude manifests itself is different today than it was in the Ancient Near East. Playboy, for example, wasn't around to sell magazines. But objectifying others, whether through the media or a host of other ways, is relationship breakdown. Period. And sin honestly makes others a threat-- "I better objectify you before you objectify me!" But the gospel teaches us to see others not as objects to be used for our own gain or pleasure, but as objects of God's love. It gospel restores relationships.

Ultimately, I have found my only hope for restored sexuality to be in God. He created us. He created sex. It's His voice that has the authority to say, "what I have created is very good," and, "your sin and shame are covered." Apart from knowing His love in a personal and transforming way, I can't fully and freely love myself or begin to do the same with others. Apart from sitting at His feet and being conformed into His image, I can't possibly hope to discover who I am, much less what "good sex"-- sex as it was created to be before sin broke it--even is. Sex always has was, after all, His idea. 

Sin broke everything, including sex. But the gospel, God's rescue plan to restore us to relationship with Himself, restores everything. Including sex. 

Have you experienced brokenness in any of these areas? Would you be willing to take the risk and seek restoration from the God who created you and looks at you without contempt?  

1 comment:

Hulda Sif said...

I have to disagree with you here... It seems like you are saying that the sin that brought all the shame is no longer a necessary part of people's lives and that all has been restored and there is no longer a need to feel a shame at all, that this god loves us just the way we are. However... most people don't see it that way. I ask you: Why does there need to be the notion of sin if this god has removed it anyway? If that is the case, what on earth is there to learn from Adam and Eve?

For me it is the notion that sin brought us shame about our bodies that tells us that we should feel ashamed and that it is normal to feel ashamed, but however ashamed we are we are still loved by a god. It is also society that tells us that nakedness and sexuality is a bit of a taboo or media goes overboard and objectifies everyone and exaggerates their sexuality in different ways. If sexuality was normal in society it wouldn't sell.

I'm not a Christian (I was) and I have nothing against Christians and actually love reading your blog and getting more familiar with your perspectives. Removing myself from Christianity actually gave me freedom to love myself the way I am, naked or clothed, fit or overweight, single or married (or about to get married in my case) and etc. While I believed myself to be Christian I of course knew that my god was supposed to love me however I was, but I always felt like I should be better somehow and I was constantly striving to be. It seems to me that you are also going through that. I still have the same morals and I of course want to be the best me I can be, but I love myself, even though I'm not always (or ever) the best me I believe myself capable of being. I feel comfortable being naked, whatever the number of pounds I carry and no matter the abuse I've endured. I now look at my body as my temple and I need to take care of it, love it, nourish it (with good nutrients, no junk) and use it the way it was designed, for exercise and for sex. I've felt quite comfortable living with my spouse for the last four years and having a child with him for the last three and not yet being married hasn't been an issue (we're getting married soon though, but only because we want to). Relieving myself from the belief that I needed to forgive everything and everyone was also much more liberating than the forgiveness itself ever was. It's not because Christianity was bad for me or anything like that. When I look at moral rules from different religions they are more or less the same, but all of these religions have a tendency to give you a recipe of how you should be or behave. It was the freedom to make my own recipe for life that was the greatest gift I ever gave myself and the most liberating thing I've ever done. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for me.

Today I believe that if I'm generally a good person and make a habit out of treating people well, I can be quite content with my life. Of course I feel shame every now and then, but only when I'm disappointed in myself. I know I'm not perfect and that I can learn from my mistakes and some I can even make right again, so shame never stays with me for long. I learn from it and then I let it go. Learning to be content with yourself and to love yourself is something that all people have to go through, no matter what their religion is. It's just a normal part of maturing and growing up.