The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.
- Bruce Marshall
So this isn't my usual blog. Actually, it's not very many people's usual blog. But it needs to be, because the subject of sexuality pervades our society, finds its way into almost any movie or TV show you watch and produces such a strong force over our lives.
So, in the words of the great philosophers Salt n Pepa: "Let's talk about sex, baby!"
When we began the sixth section of Theodyssey entitled, "Sexuality," our group briefly reverted to a junior high youth group- some nervous giggles, awkward silences and gender-specific discussion groups. Why is the topic of sexuality so often met with averted eyes and nervous blushing? Because every time we discuss the many dimensions of sex and sexuality, we are treading on sacred, mysterious ground, we are a bit overwhelmed and we don't know what else to do.
God created sex and sexuality out of a desire to give humanity the experience of connection, unity and self-giving love. It's more than a physical act or connection- it's about something greater. David Smith writes, "Here [sexuality], the transcendent- the sacred - happens in our midst. Mystery, Beauty, Truth and Belonging come together." Sounds great so far...until we begin to misuse the gift that we've been given.
I could expand on the different ways that we misuse the gift of sex and sexuality- pornography, adulterous affairs, pre-marital sex, voyeurism...and the list goes on. Instead, I want to focus on why any of these misuses can be so dangerous to our souls, the core of who we are.
To illustrate my point, I am going to use an example that our culture deems harmless yet has caused much pain for myself and many others: romantic comedies. Chick flicks, girl porn, love stories- whatever you call them, they are a prime demonstration of how the gift of sexuality is distorted, misused and abused. (David Smith outlines an incredibly detailed and accurate cycle of "sexual temptation", which is the basis for the following points.) Here we go...
The Lens- We must begin with your "lens". This is the way you see yourself, others and the world around you. If my lens is covered in shame, fear, guilt or self-hatred, I will see others, myself and God that way. I may deeply desire love, affirmation and approval from others, yet be unable or uncertain of how to receive that.
The Trigger- Something sets off an internal fire alarm, waking up feelings of loneliness, pain or other negative emotions. If I don't have a strong sense of being loved and valued, I will find a way to "fix" this pain. Enter the Red Box special. If I'm feeling especially sad or overlooked, a romantic comedy looks promising as a "cute" option to make me feel better. (Yeah, I know, this seems so incredibly logical, right?!)
The False Assurance- We think we're strong enough. Or it won't bother us. Or it's not hurting anyone else. Or it's only one time. And we're deceived.
The Climb & Descent - We plan, obsess, strategize and orchestrate our moves. Sometimes this is more fulfilling than the actual follow-through. We debate, rationalize, struggle, justify, deny, question, ignore...and then we give in.
The Bucket - And then we feel awful. When I'm struggling with loneliness and I watch a movie about some perfect love story, do I feel relieved by the end? No, I feel horrible! And not only that, but I kick myself for wasting two hours on a predictable ending when I thought that Nicholas Sparks could come up with something new this time.
The Lens (once again) - As we're wallowing in our misery, something also happens to our lens: it gets worse. We reinforce the shame, guilt and self-hatred that we know so well (some of the worst ones could be, "I'm alone," "No one wants me," "I'm the only one who struggles with this,").
So what do we do? We make our way back to sacred ground.
We long for all that sexuality can provide- belonging, trust, mystery, being known. Ultimately, we find that in the One who created sexuality. Where God desires that we enjoy sex according to his plan, we can never substitute anything for the fulfillment we find in God's love.
It heals our hearts when they get triggered.
It speaks truth instead of false assurances.
It invites us to wholeness rather than acting out of brokenness.
It replaces our lenses...
and it frees us from what seems like a never-ending cycle.
How's that for talking about the birds and the bees.