Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Tag: psalm 42

What did you say about sex?

“How we relate sexually is a spiritual, communal matter and can’t be reduced to a discussion of private expression or individual rights.” I used this proverb from Circle of Hope’s collection in my talk at our Sunday meeting as an example of the type of unity and vulnerability to which we aspire. I was saying, whoa, if we want to go that deep with each other, we’ll have to go pretty deep with God too. The only way to trust each other that much is to trust God.

After the meeting, my cell mates (people who are in my cell) were like, “What were you saying about sex?” I hadn’t really unpacked the proverb. I thought others might be just as mystified by my lack of explanation.

When Jesus said “the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:8) he was expressing something about how God designed sex. It’s true because God said so, and because we can see how it is true from our own experience. Harville Hendrix, a psychologist, wrote a book called “Getting the Love You Want,” which describes a way of relating to a spouse that considers the deep emotional nature of sex. His theory is that we are working out some of our basic unmet needs of childhood when we are having sex. Sex is an activity that is so primal it gets down to the core of our pre-conscious selves. Hendrix calls this our “lizard brain” –our primordial selves. Sex gets us into the depths whether we know it or not. This is why most people grow out of random sexual encounters and long for monogamy. They are waking up to the hollowness of meaningless sex. They are learning that sex is a door to a part of themselves that is often untouched. Touching it unconsciously leads to many unpredictable and undesirable results. The best environment for it, says Hendrix (and Jesus), is in a life long commitment because it might take that long to work that stuff out, and the type of safety needed for that intimacy zone is best achieved through marriage.

So at the very least, sex is deeply psychological, but I don’t stop there. When we get into that realm of who we are, we are talking about spiritual matters as well. It is in these deeper parts of ourselves that God needs to heal us most and where God often connects with us. “Deep calls to deep,” says the psalmist. Sex is spiritual. I think that most people believe this, even folks who aren’t Christian. Perhaps sex is overly spiritualized by some, and it is definitely worshiped by others (Like Wild Beasts in their song Mecca), but the fact that it is spiritual remains. (Do you agree?)

And who we are spiritually matters to the spiritual community. Our collective body is driven by the Holy Spirit and our connection and submission to the Holy Spirit effects the spiritual health of the body. “If one part suffers, we all suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our cultural tendency to keep our sex private is not misguided. Certain traditions of modesty help maintain the special relationship spouses have in their love making which I think needs to be protected. However, our brotherhood and sisterhood ought to make room for relationships that help make those relationships healthy and strong. That’s hard to do in isolation. Sex needs to be discussed at times, especially when there are problems in the relationship or the sex is occurring outside of marriage.

Reducing sex to a matter of individual rights is not deep enough. It does not acknowledge the depth of human experience, and the depth of God’s design for sex. Some groups have, because of oppression, responded to the powers by demanding their rights related to human sexuality (I’m thinking women and homosexuals). This was an understandable (and life saving in some cases) response that has begun quite a bit of societal change, however I don’t think it needs to re-categorize sex within the realm of rights forever. I hope it doesn’t. I understand historically why that has occurred but I’m praying that a couple more decades will reveal a society in which sex can escape the polemics of rights it has occupied in our cultural consciousness and get back down to the deep place God designed it for.

In the mean time Circle of Hope will continue to wade through the messy, God-inspired vulnerability of life in the Body of Christ, where how we relate sexually is a spiritual, communal matter and can’t be reduced to a discussion of private expression or individual rights. It’s difficult but God will help us.

Waking Up- Using Lent as a Season of Examination

Antibodies-attacking-a-virus1I find there is great comfort in specificity. So much of what pulls my heart around is more a general sense of something, a nagging disease with some unidentified something, a cloudy shadow of something.  But what is it?!  Why do I find myself sighing sometimes, or fearing sometimes, or discovering new unhappiness sometimes.

It’s good to ask with the psalmist, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”  The psalmist goes right on to hope but I like to wait there for a good long while.  I need to be undisturbed.  I need to get to the specific things that are causing these feelings.  Sometimes it’s impossible.  Sometimes I don’t have patience to get there, but Oh, when I do, specificity is hot cocoa and a fireplace on a heart’s wintry night.

During Lent at Circle of Hope we are examining these things which generate so much turmoil for us.  We’re waking up to the darkness around us and with in us. We’re holding off the judgment and letting Christ’s resurrection life raise us from the dead–we’e letting Christ’s light shine on the untouched coldness of us and our world.

The specifics of Lent are of the body- like the human body.  The real wounds of Jesus are the nail holes in his hands, his speared side, the gauges in his head, and the lash marks on his back.  We identify with that suffering for forty days, not in a grotesque or morbid sort of way as some have in my opinion, but following our connection, even body to body.  We take on disciplines which remind us in our body to connect with God.  Fasting, feeling hungry.  Praying, living on more than bread.  We take communion every week to ingest something of God symbolically, and to be an actual people united in the remembrance.  It all couples very nicely with my call to specificity in the face of angst.

My body is like Jesus’ body.  But I eagerly await a new and resurrected body.  My hope is not pie in the sky. It is a new left forearm with no screws in it.  It is a right ear with no throbbing behind its infected drum.  It is illness free and soft skinned.  It is glorious and beyond my imagination.  I have a specific hope.  Jesus made the way for that hope through a specific time and place and a very specific death.  I want a world in which there are no more tears of sorrow.  I can name a million things that make me cry.  I will spend eternity remembering millions of things that no longer do, and I will rejoice.

So I want to be that specific now.  I want to start the list during Lent and mourn the broken, dark somethings that would usually beg to be ignored.  We are reminded in 1 John that  “God is light;in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  Walking in the light is not ignoring the things that are in the dark.  I imagine myself strolling around my heart as a glow-in-the-dark version of myself illuminating all the corners of my interior house.  Or walking across a map of the world or just our region and leaving iridescent foot prints.  And of course, the light is God.

At the Public Meeting on Sunday night I was thinking about how are bodies get specific. The leukocytes attack infection and one type takes samples from the invading pathogen and takes it back to a lab where other cells make antigens for it.  The antigens are specifically designed for that particular pathogen and thus very effective in subduing it.  I promised to post this video which had me amazed out how well our bodies can work, even if they are suited for a hostile world. My prayer is that we might be so amazing in our battles against the darkness. It’s work. God help us.