There is one area of my sex life where I feel like I’ve had real, unqualified joy and personal growth with God, and that is celibacy. I also spent years wanting sex with my spouse and not getting it. I will tell you up front that choosing celibacy from a place filled with love and having celibacy forced on you are not at all the same thing. I hope I would never push someone into celibacy who doesn’t understand the potential for growth and intimacy and beauty that can come with it. That said, I want my first personal story in this blog series to be about the sexual experience I’ve found the most value in so far. So, celibacy it is.
Shocked yet? Angry? Good. I probably would be, too.
But first, a quick word about my approach to this month o’ sex blogging.
I spent the morning yesterday responding to comments and private messages about my last post. I’m grateful to everyone who has shared their stories and their hearts in really vulnerable ways. That kind of connection is Facebook at its best, if you ask me. Several people recommended books, and I spent yesterday afternoon combing through them, hoping I might come across some new insight before I launch myself into what feels like a scary and shocking gap. I was reminded of some good and helpful points, but I didn’t find anything new.
That got me thinking… what is my real beef with how people are approaching this topic publicly (books, blogs, etc)? I think I may be able to articulate it now thanks to your stories and these books you recommended: regardless of the perspective people are coming from about how sex should be done, most of the writing is prescriptive. It’s so much more “you should…” than “I have… and here’s what happened and what I learned from it.” The author of one of the books I read yesterday throws a “quick confession” into the introduction: “Unfortunately, Lauren and I didn’t follow quite a bit of what we’re about to walk through in this book.” Wait… what? I want to hear that story. If you’re going to recommend a course of action you didn’t follow (or even one you did), I want to hear about what you did and what you learned in the moment. If God spoke to you through your circumstances (good or bad, right or wrong), I REALLY want to hear about that. I want to hear it way more than I want to hear your opinion on what I should be doing. I sped through half the book hoping the author would get back to it, and so far he has not. It’s too bad.
As someone who loves Jesus, there are a few core things I believe about God that are relevant here. I’ll explain them briefly. The first is that, while His law is perfect and beautiful and right and unchanging, He cares more about people than He cares about the law. How else could the gospel be true? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28. I don’t think it’s that big a stretch to replace “Sabbath” with “Law” in that context. If you’re unfamiliar with that story, it is well worth checking out.) Humanity is the crown of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26), the reflection of Him on earth (2 Corinthians 3:18), His special handiwork (Ephesians 2:10), not the law.
The second is that I believe God’s grace made possible through Jesus’ death means that He can take every moment of our lives and use them for His glory, our joy, and other people’s edification (Romans 5:20). Every. Moment. Not just the peaks but the valleys. If His “grace is sufficient”, if His “power is made perfect” in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), why would I hide my weakness? Why would I be hesitant to show where I’m struggling? If God is working in me through my strengths AND weaknesses, why would I only speak to you about His work in you from a place the shows only my strength? I feel like a lot of authors (Christian or otherwise) only write when they can do it from a place of strength, especially when it comes to sex. I’m not going to. Or I’m going to try not to. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so please let me know if you see me doing that.
The third core thing I know about God is that He knows the power of personal testimony. One of my favorite verses is in I John 1:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (I John 1:1-4)
In other words, this is the apostle John, speaking on behalf of himself and the other apostles, saying, “We’re telling you what we know first hand, what we have experienced—the presence of Christ and the amazing, unending life of joy that comes with it. And we’re going to tell you that without holding back about the stupid things we did as we learned. Because it is the presence of Emmanuel—God with us—that gives the stories meaning.” Seriously, writing the gospels must have been a very humbling experience for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They look like bumbling dorks a lot of the time. Jesus looks amazing.
Sure, there’s law in the Bible. There’s prescriptive writing. And it’s important. But there’s also a ton of personal history, stories about people’s encounters with God. Those people don’t usually come out looking super shiny and amazing, but it would be hard to argue with the effect of the presence of God in their lives. I want more of that in writing about sex. Right now, prescriptive writing is way out of proportion with testimony. Yes, tell me law, tell me why it works. But also tell me how God worked through your sex successes and your sex failures. Where is He in your life?
There are, of course, novels. There are memoirs. There are stories out there about people’s love lives and sex—I love reading the Modern Love column in the New York Times. But I want to hear these stories in the context of God’s truth and His work. The Bible says, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3) I want to BE a letter from Christ, and I want to show you the stories of other people who ARE his letters. I hope that’s what you get from my blog over the next 29 days.
Oops, too much ink spilled writing about God. Still angry about celibacy? Save it for tomorrow. I’ll show up in my celibacy cheerleading outfit.