Gutsy Love {For Conversations about Sexuality and Intimacy}

On my desk sit books upon books about sex. Yep, you’ve got it. Sex. All these books stacked up and some overflowing on the floor. I myself have sat at this desk with these books now for many hours in preparation for an upcoming parenting class about sexual wholeness. I’m going to be blunt, because that’s how I roll: I’m burdened by the depths of our collective brokenness.


We are so far off from what God has created us to be that it’s painful to listen to the grammar to which we (and by this, I mean the Church) has resorted to describe our sexuality. What is intended to be beautiful has been reduced to a sterile, clunky, and shame-filled vernacular of confused messages. No wonder our children grow up with no idea on which hook to hang their sexuality. Is it bad? Is it good? Shhhh! Don’t talk about it.

In some ways, I’m glad we’ve already pushed our children from the proverbial nest. We did our best to direct them to God’s best ideal and now it’s their turn make choices consistent with what they understand His desires to be for them. {Granted we still speak into their lives, but parents occupy a different space in their adult children’s lives.} But I tip my hat to today’s parents–you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Sadly, the Church has lagged way behind the culture’s conversation in regard to sexuality. Waaaaaaaay behind. Conversations of sexuality in the church are often non-existent or relegated to the “biblical roles of men and women.” Moms and dads are still figuring out how to have “the talk” (as if though it were just one) while the culture is openly espousing many, many opinions on topics that for way too long have been kept locked away in the taboo cupboard in some secret passage way behind the church custodian closet. If we feel overwhelmed and confused as adults, image how our children feel.

Naturally I listened yesterday and today with interest as the Twitter board lit up with comments from the Southern Baptist’s inaugural Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Summit on Sex (You can see the tweets on Twitter #erlcsummit). I was bummed. The conversation felt like a play back from things that should have been said twenty years ago. Nobody is going to be excited about a sandwich made from day old bread. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know–it’s a start.

I’m sad too. Sad that we so often miss that the conversations about sexuality aren’t about sex. It’s really about longings and desires to be loved, embraced, and to belong; to be found as a person of worth; it’s the God-instilled ache of the heart for intimacy in a relationship that reveals beauty and joy and togetherness in such a way that words aren’t powerful enough to define. And honestly, the Church ought to be writing the dictionary for that conversation…but we’re not.

When it comes to matters of intimacy, (and here I speak of non-sexual intimacy), we are awkward, discomforted by closeness. I think of my mentor Marva (although I’ve never personally met her) and her astute observation:

As persons have lost skills of interpersonal relationships, the poles of technology and intimacy have become reversed. We recognize that intimacy is missing from our lives, so we advertise our technological toys with sexy models and try to make our technology more intimate with personal names. On the other hand, we do not know how to express intimacy, so we have to find technological assistance to do it. Sexual union formerly  expressed the culmination of many growing intimacies–intellectual, spiritual, financial, recreational, creative, social, spiritual–and marked a committed covenant relationship. Now persons turn to sexual intercourse as a way to begin to know one another, and technical manuals are written so that it can be done as effectively as possible. The whole act of union carries an entirely different meaning.

What makes sex “good?” Is it its efficiency –that is the chief criterion in our technological milieu–or its extreme, albeit momentary, physical pleasure? I am distressed that our contemporary culture would reduce the beauty of an expression of lifelong fidelity to one’s spouse to a mere experiment in sexual gratification. There are other ways to express affection for one’s friends, to experience tenderness and intimacy, to enfold others haunted by their cosmic loneliness. 

Please listen to what Marva says next–because if we, the Church, are going to enter the cultural conversation with any credibility we have to first look inward and ask ourselves if we revealed love as beautiful in our communities. Do we love one another well? Have we made love to be fluff and convenience or are we persisting to love one another in places that are messy, uncomfortable, and reeking with the odor of loneliness that our brokenness, and primarily, our sexual brokenness has made for us? Have we unwittingly made sexual intimacy the only way for our children to experience a sense of being wanted?

Marva continues:

The Church has a wonderful message to proclaim–the hope of eternal meaning, the love of persons in deep relationship because God loved us first, the faith that we are accepted on the basis of the merits of Someone perfect and not because we have successfully managed to be the most efficient. Everyone in the world is longing for the Hilarity of that kind of hope, that fulfillment of being loved, that content of faith that will not change.

The superficiality of many parish fellowships belies the biblical possibilities. Why do Christians have such difficulty in truly loving one another, in being glad to belong to one another, in experiencing the empowering Hilarity that the grace of God and true community confer?

God freely chose to love each one us. We respond to the wonder and Hilarity of that by loving him, but also by seeking to become more loving toward others. Relationships that float around on the surface deny the reality of God’s gutsy love, a love so full that it compelled Christ to suffer depths of degradation and cruel crucifixion to demonstrate it to us. (Marva Dawn, Truly the Community)

Gutsy. That’s what I think we need more of. Gutsy conversations. {With our kids. With each other. Let’s get to talking about it! It’s time for us to take back our voice.} Gutsy commitments. Gutsy postures of humility for the sake of others. It’s time. We’ve been silent too long.