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Trust and Body Theology: what my husband taught me about God

I saw this tweet last week on Anne Lamott’s feed, and I got to thinking.

In grad school, I took a class called Marriage and Interpersonal Relationships in which the professor talked about how people at bottom have either struggles with shame or trust issues.  Everyone has a little of both, but either shame or trust is the key component in why we think the way we think, why we act the way we act, and why we end up in the conflict cycles in relationships that we end up in.

After a lot of soul-searching (and a paper we had to write), I finally came to the conclusion that I am a trust-issue person.  Somehow, being a shame-issue person seemed better or easier to admit, but when I finally realized the truth about my own woundedness, I began to take steps toward my healing.

I did a lot of work on myself after that, which took years.  I remember something a close friend once said about the healing she experienced in her life (as a shame-issue person).  She said that the final healing came from her husband.

That’s what I thought of when I read that tweet the other day. I thought about all the work I did to undo the learning I had learned growing up that no one was trustworthy and that I had to take care of everything myself.  I thought about all the work I did to learn to do more than say the words with my mouth that God is trustworthy; I also had to believe it in my heart.

But at the end of the day, the final healing came from my relationship with my husband.

When I read that tweet, I thought about how I trust my husband implicitly and completely without the slightest twinge of doubt, suspicion, or jealousy.  If he says he’s working late, I know that means he is.  If he chats on Facebook with an old girlfriend, I know they really are just friends. I know because every single day since the day we met he has proven with his behavior that I can trust him. I know because even when some embarrassingly irrational fear emerged while we were dating, and I acted out, he said the words I needed him to say and behaved the way I needed him to behave to prove to me again that I can trust him. I know because if he could see the irrational, embarrassing side of me with all the woundedness still left unhealed and still want to date me and marry me and love me forever, he was worthy of my trust.

And it made me think about God, too, and how hard it is for me to trust God.  It’s easy to love God, serve God, praise God.  But trust?  For some people, believing that God loves them, that they are love-able, is the hardest thing.  For me, believing God is trustworthy (especially believing that I don’t have to earn it) is the hardest thing.  I’ve been slowly healing from this great lie I believed for years, but the final healing came from my husband.

My aunt once said, famously, that sometimes we just want someone with skin on.  Sometimes, no matter how many Bible verses we memorize or how much theology we learn about who God is and who we are, we just can’t accept the truth until we receive it from someone with skin on.

That is the beauty of the incarnation.  God poured all of that majesty and might and holiness and completeness and divinity into one small, simple, ordinary human being.  After everything we had learned, after all our God-encounters throughout history, we just couldn’t get it until we actually saw, felt, heard, and sat at the feet of someone with skin on.

That’s how we’re made.

If my husband — a fallible human being just like I am — can be this honest, this dependable, this trustworthy, then SURELY how much more so is the God we love and serve and praise?

I’m no fool. I don’t expect my husband to be perfect. I know he is not God. I know he will let me down, hurt me, disappoint me, and maybe even betray my trust in him one day. But through his physical presence in my life, I have been able to experience the truth about who God is.  All the Bible verses in the world couldn’t do that.

That is body theology.

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Sex-versations

The Christian world is full of controversy over what is right and wrong, what is healthy and not healthy, and even what is biblical and not biblical when it comes to sex, relationships, and how we both behave with and view our bodies. 

Last week we looked at a sample of what’s being said about sexuality and relationships.  Here are a few more to keep the conversation going.

How do you define healthy sexuality, inside or outside of healthy Christian marriage?  Share your thoughts in the comment section. Discuss. Discern. Discover.

1) CNN-Is God Going to Hook Me Up Online? So does that mean the cliché is true, that some matches really are “made in heaven?” Does God, if you believe there is one, pre-select us to pair up as life partners, as “soul mates?”

2) CNN-It’s time to talk about sex at church–and marriage for clergy Are we not all sexual beings with the same capacity to love and be loved? Why can’t a man of God, be also a family man?…Even the bible says that the bishop should be “the husband of one wife” – see 1 Timothy 3:2.

3) Esther and Vashti: The Real Story Technically speaking, it is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt (Exodus 21:7), biblical for her to be forced to marry her rapist (Exodus 22:16-17), biblical for her to remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), biblical for her to cover her head (1 Corinthians 11:6), and biblical for her to be one of many wives (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).  With this in mind, I don’t know anyone who is actually advocating a return to biblical womanhood.

4) Lingering in That Aisle Like it or not, our sexuality connects us to other people and to God.  Even if that other person is our pharmacist, local Target employee, or gynecologist who asks if we need to be screened for STD’s.  No matter what time period, there’s gonna be blood and semen and breath.

5) Getting to the Root of Female Masturbation Whether or not masturbation is a categorical sin, it is certainly something that produces shame in Angela and Jasmine—shame from which they seek deliverance. And if masturbation is often about more than pleasure—if it’s at root about intimacy and healthy attachment—I believe the Christian community can help women like Angela and Jasmine break free.

6) Truth, Authority and Roles I suspect that many people, including many Christians, prefer hierarchy to truth because hierarchy makes things more orderly, controlled and predictable. Authority-as-truth can be messy. But anything else is a form of idolatry (or at least an opening to idolatry) because God and truth are inseparable. To prefer power to truth is always wrong.

7) But He (or She) Isn’t a Virgin As Christians, one area that our narrow perspective has negatively affected has been the topic of sexual purity. Inarguably, sexual purity is a very important thing. God would not have mentioned it time and time again throughout Scriptures if that were not so. He knows the pain and devastation that “sex done wrong” can cause in both short-term and long-term relationships. Yet we as Christians must remember that though it is an important piece to the puzzle of a flourishing marriage, it is by no means the most important factor.

8) The Trouble with Ed Young’s Rooftop Sexperiment In short, if there were more talk about sex elsewhere in the church, perhaps in the privacy of our communities and classrooms, we might get away with a good deal less of it from our pulpits and our publishing houses. Until then, the message will continue to get drowned out amidst the bombardment of infotainment that our evangelical world suffers from. In other words, if the message is not getting through, we might think about changing the messenger and method. Otherwise, the sensationalistic path of least resistance inevitably comes to the fore.

Sex-versations

Identity.

Body image.

       Human interaction.

The Christian world is full of controversy over what is right and wrong, what is healthy and not healthy, and even what is biblical and not biblical when it comes to sex, relationships, and how we both behave with and view our bodies.  Here are some current commentaries on sexuality and marriage for today’s culture.  How do you define healthy sexuality, inside or outside of healthy Christian marriage?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

1) Real MarriageMark Driscoll‘s new book on marriage and sex
Top of My “Don’t Read” List: What we need are real people in our lives. Real family members. Real friends. Real brothers and sisters. Real pastors. Real churches. Real neighbors. Who will tell us and show us what real life is like. And actually walk beside us in it. Not hand us a juicy book. Furthermore, we need people who are courageous enough to refuse to pander to our personal preoccupations and our culture’s obsession with sex, even within marriage. We need people to help us discern what is and what is not an appropriate topic for public conversation among followers of Christ.
RELEVANT Magazine’s Review: One thing the Driscolls do well is drag the issue of sex out into the harsh light of discussion. The topics they address are being asked in our culture and in the Church (albeit behind closed doors). Like it or not, Real Marriage removes the option to pretend sex isn’t an issue….Real Marriage lacks a model of human sexuality that incorporates both the first Adam and the second. Instead of a clear picture of healthy human sexuality, Real Marriage mostly offers us unfair assumptions, over-generalizations and unhelpful stereotypes.

2) Is Premarital Sex Okay for Millennials?: I don’t think the human body is meant to abstain from sex this long (physiologically or spiritually). The question, I believe, is how do we as a church help young adults? Do we begin forming a localized institution of e-harmony and help people get married younger (and help deal with the problems of young married couples)? Or do we disavow our stance on premarital sex? What can the church do to help people find ideal living in non-ideal times? Read my response here.

3) Is Premarital Sex Okay?: God has answered this question in his Word. And the answer does not change just because our culture does. Sex outside of and before marriage is sin. It is a stench in the nostrils of a holy God.

4) Adventures of a Bra-wearing Woman: But this blog wouldn’t be complete without some comments about God.  What does He think about my newfound lingerie that cost a small fortune?…I think about Song of Songs 7:3 : “Your breasts are like fawns; twins of a gazelle.”  Bras are a way to care for my fawns.

5) In which [love looks like] a real marriage: So this is what we do, we make each other better at being ourselves, better at being like Jesus, we slow-dance, my head on your heart, your breath in my hair, your hands on my wider-than-they-used-to-be hips, our feet slower perhaps because we’re moving together.

6) Divorce fears widespread among young couples: Roughly 67 percent of the interviewees expressed concern about divorce. Most frequently mentioned was a desire to “do it right” and marry only once, to the ideal partner, leading some to view cohabitation as a “test-drive” before making “the ultimate commitment.” The belief that marriage was difficult to exit was mentioned nearly as frequently, with examples of how divorce caused emotional pain, social embarrassment, child custody concerns, and legal and financial problems.

The world is full of opinions.  Share yours in the comment box below.

Response to: Is Premarital Sex Okay for Millennials?

Blogger Mike Friesen wrote a recent post entitled “Is Premarital Sex Okay For Millenials?”

I was taught growing up that premarital sex is bad. In fact, the environment that I was in would shame me if I was involved in any form of sexual idolatry. However, because of my love for the Bible and the beauty that God created in sexual oneness, I agree that it is absolutely best to wait for marriage.   Read the rest here.

As a proponent of healthy body theology (and by extension healthy sexuality), I wrestle with issues like this all the time.  I think one issue that clouds the discussion is the tendency for Christians to approach issues with very black-and-white theology, which I just don’t think is helpful anymore.

Rather than asking the question “Is premarital sex okay,” might not a better question be “How do single Christians express their sexuality in a healthy way?” Secondly, how does the Church guide and advise on such issues? I think it’s much more helpful overall to teach people to make responsible, adult decisions about how to experience life, whether it’s going to a bar or club to unwind with friends and meet new ones, participating in Christian communities, engaging in social justice issues, pursuing higher schooling, taking parenting classes, having sex as a single person, discerning a vocation, making wise money investments, etc.

Life is full of choices, not just about sex but about everything. There are so many things we 18- to 35-year-olds need guidance about, and without the church helping to shape youth into wise and discerning young adults, we are going to keep circling around, asking the wrong questions, and drawing unhelpful boundaries that do not allow for the “new thing springing up” and the very active movement of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.

I’m curious, for all the “waiters” out there, how do you/did you experience “waiting” for sex? Do you see more sexual repression or healthy waiting? For those of you who waited/are waiting, how did you/do you express your sexuality in a healthy way in the meantime? For those of you who didn’t wait, do you regret your choices now? Why or why not?  Leave your thoughts in the comment box below, or join Mike Friesen’s discussion.

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