I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Holy Week or Easter or anything in our theme last week and this week, but I couldn’t resist. If only we were all so enlightened, there would be no need for blogs like HBTB!
1) The way getting my period routinely reminds me of my ability to create a new human being inside my body
2) The ability to experience such unique pleasure and intimacy with another human being
3) The give-and-take involved in shared sexuality with another human being
4) The ability to emotionally bond with another human being through a physical act
5) How our sexual nature unites all humanity in basic human experience
6) How my sexual nature unites me with the sexual nature of Christ who took on human form to be with us
7) How sexual experience–like eating and drinking, hiking, or even bathing–can be at once physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual
8) How sexual experience–like contemplation–engages all my physical, emotional, and mental energy
9) The way sexual experience is both a release and a gain
10) The way sexual experience is creative in its possibility for new life–figuratively and literally
In keeping with tradition, we’re wrapping up this week’s theme on praying naked with four suggestions. Choose the one that best fits, and come back to share your experience.
1) Pray in the bathtub (centering prayer): As you remove each article of clothing, remove along with it some distracting thought. Allow the water surrounding you to remind you of the movement of the Holy Spirit within you. Don’t be discouraged by distracting thoughts, but allow your nakedness to remind you of your purpose, and continue to set distractions aside. Once you are centered (this can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, so don’t rush yourself), allow God to speak to you. This might take the form of a recurring distracting thought, an old emotional wound, a nagging memory of an unreconciled relationship, a line of music or verse of scripture, or anything else. Whatever emerges, take it to God and experience God’s love, healing, forgiveness, acceptance, and renewal.
2) Pray in your room (intercessory prayer): As you undress, be aware of the vulnerability of your naked body. Allow that vulnerability to guide your conversation with God. As you become more comfortable with your nakedness–alone in your room–allow yourself to experience compassion for those whose vulnerability is taken advantage of. If that is not a natural experience for you, read Stacey’s post as an example, and ask God to open your eyes not only to your own needs but also to the needs of others.
3) Pray semi-covered (inner healing prayer): For those of you who have experienced trauma and may be triggered by the vulnerability of your nakedness, try undressing and then covering yourself with a towel, robe, or blanket. Allow the covering to be an intentional reminder of God’s protection over you. Read Gen 2:25, slowly, aloud, once every five minutes for 30 minutes. Between readings, sit quietly and allow God’s truth about your body to take root. As any shameful memories arise, offer them to God. Ask God to enter those memories with you and show you the truth about yourself. If you’re feeling too vulnerable at any point, try putting some of your clothes back on, one article at a time. Allow the act of getting dressed to be an intentional reminder of God’s protection over you.
4) Sleep naked (resting prayer aka letting-God-do-all-the-work): For those of you who find the whole conversation about praying naked to be uncomfortable or ridiculous (or if the above suggestions just aren’t for you), try simply sleeping naked tonight. Again, as you undress, be mindful that you are uncovering yourself before God. Ask God to enter your experience and show you something new. (If you sleep with a partner, be sure to warn him or her that you are sleeping naked tonight as a spiritual exercise, not as an invitation to sexy time. This is your chance to experience your sexuality within yourself and with God. Have sexy time tomorrow night.)
Our bodies are often the first to signal the rising of our newly released inner energies and gifts. — Wuellner
Last week, we made our way through the first five chapters of Flora Slosson Wuellner’s book Prayer and Our Bodies. This week, we’ll finish our little tour by reflecting on what she has to say about how our bodies relate to sexuality, disability and illness, community and creation.
Chapter 6: Healed Empowerment and Our Bodies
In this chapter, Wuellner has some interesting things to say about sexuality as one expression of the “transformation of the Holy Spirit” that draws out our natural “poise, balance, justice and charity between passions and energies.” Along with laughter and tears, just anger and compassion, Wuellner suggests that the unity and marriage we talked about last Thursday between the body and spiritual experience results in “a new restlessness, poignancy, vigor felt in the body that often involves a heightened sexual awareness….”
Many think that sexuality will go away or at least become quiescent as we grow spiritually. On the contrary! As we abide more closely to the God who is the source of all creative energy, the God of the Incarnation, we begin to experience sexual energy in a new way, as a holy, inalienable, generative force.
In other words, “[s]exual energy is energy from the source of creative life itself.” Our sexuality comes from God. Whether we are sexually active or not, our sexual energy is a good and powerful expression of who we are as creative individuals participating in the Incarnation of Christ. In fact, Wuellner reminds us that “we are all sexual beings, including those who are celibate or abstinent, for our creative polarized response to life within and around us is manifested in many ways through our body’s vitality.”
Expressing our sexuality through sexual interaction with another person is one way to expend this sexual energy, and such activity–when undertaken within healthy and appropriate boundaries–is both sanctioned and blessed by God. As Wuellner writes, “None of our bodily energies are low or unworthy.”
However, not everyone is in a position to express their sexuality this way. Having spent most of my life thus far as a single woman (married less than a year), I’m intimately familiar with the frustration of discussions about how blessed, natural and good our sexual energy is while being unable to express it fully.
I remember sitting in church one day listening to a sermon on the value of exercise. At one point in the sermon, the pastor said, “Now, all you single people, put your fingers in your ears.” It was clear what he wanted to say next was directed toward only the married members of the congregation. Then he said, “Exercise also raises your libido!” As the congregation laughed and clapped at his admission that exercise can give us more sexual energy, my single friend and I exchanged a glance that said, Oh great, so then what are WE supposed to do about all that extra sexual energy?
Wuellner suggests that “none of our powers and feelings need be wasted. When direct sexual activity is inappropriate, we can still accept the empowered gift in ways that bless us.”
Here are some of her suggestions, which she stresses are neither more holy nor more spiritual than direct sexual activity:
- speak inwardly to your sexual emotion and say “I choose not to give you direct expression; rather I ask you to send your powerful vitality to my whole self so that I can do my work with empowered love.”
- locate the area where the sexual energy seems to be centered and visualize the energy flowing “with radiant power like a river of light” to the rest of your body.
In these ways, we can still acknowledge, express, and enjoy our sexuality without necessarily expressing it directly. Rather than feeling frustrated, repressed, or perhaps even plagued by emotions and desires with no appropriate avenue for direct expression, we can experience our sexuality in a healthy, appropriate, and indirect way through these and similar suggestions.
Wuellner ends her discussion of sexuality (along with anger, food, play, dance and exercise) with four main reasons we experience such “gifted empowerment that rises and manifests in our bodies….”
- that we may more thoroughly enter into the joy of God and may more fully taste the gifts of God
- that we may more fully encounter, accept, and embrace our unique identity
- that we may with passion and compassion bear one another’s burdens and “wash one another’s feet”
- that we may be eager channels of the healing transformation that God longs to bring to the agony of the world.
Before the beginning of Lent on Wednesday, take some time to sit quietly with your body, recognizing its power and vitality and allowing them to fill your whole self–body, mind, spirit and will. Acknowledge and thank your body for its participation in your whole life experience.
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.
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.