I'm writing this with a mixture of trepidation and hope. Trepidation because this is not an easy topic to write about and I question whether I'll reveal too much about myself and hope because it's a much-needed conversation and I'm glad to share what God has been doing in my heart this past week. Rob Bell has been on my To Read list for awhile. I finally read Sex God last weekend and have been ruminating on a few passages. This is not your typical Christian book about sex. For one thing, Bell doesn't delve into questions like "how far is too far?" or deal with Hot Topics. Instead, he looks at the relationship between sex and God.
"Because this is really about that. It's always about something else.
Something deeper. Something behind it all. You can't talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God.
Sex. God. They're connected. And they can't be separated. Where the one is, you will always find the other. This is a book about how sexuality is the "this" and spirituality is the "that." To make sense of the one, we have to explore the other." -p. 15, Sex God by Rob Bell
I really appreciated Bell's perspective. It makes sense that all of our questions about sex, the rightness, wrongness, are really about something else, something deeper. This is not to say that Bell does not touch on some of these questions, because he does share stories and examples, it's that they're not the focus. As he states throughout, this is really about that.
While the scope of sex is larger than my circumstances, I can't help but read through that particular lens. As a 30 year old Christian single, it is frustrating that sex is not addressed more directly within the church. The truth is it's hard to be 30 and a virgin. Part of me winces to be this vulnerable, to even write the word "virgin." I'm not ashamed of my virgin status but I am aware that I am in the minority. Virgins of a certain age have become a rarity. I somehow made it through my rebellious college years with my virginity intact. I'll never understand how this was one of the few things that stuck. God protected me during those years and I'm glad it is not on my list of regrets. Most of my extended family, co-workers, and even friends assume that I've had sex at some point in my life. Given the sex-saturated culture we live in, it's not a bad assumption.
Even within the church, there are a lot of "born again virgins" or people that interpret Scripture regarding sex differently or plain decide it doesn't apply to them. Sex has become a gray area, whether married or not. Don't ask, don't tell, and certainly don't confront. The idea of "saving sex for marriage" is encouraged perhaps for teens but becomes quaint and old-fashioned as they age. Living together has become a given progression of a relationship. Many people wonder how they could marry someone if they didn't also know they were sexually compatible. Which is perhaps why it's not out of the question that when the Bachelors/Bachelorettes have their Fantasy Suite dates, they are sleeping with all three of their potential mates. (How can that not be awkward when they have their next Fantasy Suite date?)
Even though I am doing my best to be obedient in this area, it's not easy and this is what I wish a pastor or woman's ministry or something would talk about. I am a woman, an inherently sexual being. I didn't expect to be single when I turned 30. So what to do while I'm waiting for Mr. Right? Despite being active in a young adult group at church for most of my 20s, that question has never been addressed. You can't tell a 13 year old and a 20something the same thing because the issues are completely different. But you can instruct on the root issues because these tend not to change over time. I'm glad that Bell takes the time to go beyond the nitty-gritty details and look at the Big Picture. I want to get married for many reasons but I'm not so naive to believe that there isn't some flawed logic mixed in. I want to be wanted. I want my other half. I want to fit in with all the married couples that surround me. And yes, I want to experience the intimacy of sex within a covenant relationship and hopefully raise a family. Yet, here I sit, doing life without my other half.
Two passages especially stood out to me in this book:
"You can't be connected with God until you're at peace with who you are. If you're still upset that God gave you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God is a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way. You'll be at odds with your maker. And if you can't come to terms with who you are and the life you've been given, you'll never be able to accept others and how they were made and the lives they've been give. And until you're at peace with God and those around you, you will continue to struggle with your role on the planet, your part to play in the ongoing creation of the universe. You will continue to struggle and resist and fail to connect." p. 46
"You don't need a man by your side to validate you as a woman. You already are loved and valued. You're good enough exactly as you are. Do you believe this? Because it's true. You have limitless worth and value. If you embrace this truth, it will affect every area of life, especially your relationship with men. You are worth dying for.
Your worth does not come from your body, your mind, your work, what you produce, what you put out, how much money you make. Your worth does not come from whether or not you have a man. Your worth does not come from whether or not men notice you. You have inestimable worth that comes from your creator." p. 123-4
Those passages do not contain new concepts to me but they were words of which I needed reminding. For now, contentment is my goal and continuing to center myself in Christ. People may disagree with Rob Bell or the emergent church but I think it would be hard to disagree with the heart of this book: this is really about that. We need to have a right view of God and a right view of sex. And we need to keep the conversation going. Other interesting conversations: read Rachel Held Evans' response to Early Marriage and Sarah Markley's thoughts (and the comments that follow) about heading to a Christian conference on sex.
Does any of this resonate with you? Is this really about that?