Please welcome my friend and author of Scandalous to the blog today: Emily Dixon!
Do not think about hot pink polar bears with yellow sunglasses.
You did, didn’t you? The truth is the active avoidance of a thought is the same as thinking the thought – unless, you do something extreme. You must make the thought so abhorrent to yourself the mind recoils at the faintest possibility it might brush up against it. Doing this takes work, years of conditioning, and repetitive thought replacement techniques. It is so difficult that few people succeed, but if you do, undoing the process is almost equally as hard.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the process that the church has been using when it comes to issues of sex. We have spent fortunes and invested years in teaching that all thoughts of sex abhorrent, not just to themselves but in the eyes of God. Do not get me wrong, the intent was good. We want our young people to see sex as something that should be reserved for marriage, but in our fervor we often forgotten to distinguish between the act of sex which should guarded and the gift of sexuality which should be celebrated.
I found this to be particularly true for women. Between the warnings on the dangers of sex (i.e. unplanned pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional repercussions of sex outside of marriage) and the need to shield the men from the temptations of our anatomy, we have often adopted an attitude of shame towards our sexuality. Further complicating the issue is the Church’s tendency to focus on those women of the Bible who used their sexual wiles as the means to exert power over men.
Today we are far more likely to be familiar with the story of Jezebel than Deborah, Salome than Anna, and Job’s wife than Isaiah’s. The women that are selected as role models are often those whose sexuality has been expunged from the telling as in the Virgin Mary, the woman of Proverbs 31, Esther, and Ruth. Stories wherein a woman’s sexuality is central to the plot are brushed past or down played as Tamar becomes a bit player to Judah’s fear for his sons, Rahab transforms in to a shopkeeper, and the Shulamite is stripped of her humanity to become an allegory.
With this resounding silence on the beauty of female sexuality is there any wonder that so many women have been caught up in a cycle of shame and guilt over their own bodies? We know that they have been cursed, for we learned that with the story of Eve. We know that they tempt men into foolish and destructive ways, we learned that from Proverbs. We know that wicked and adulterous nations can only be compared to whores, we learned that from the Prophets.
So how do we confront this creation called woman? Is there any honor to be given to her and her dubious biology? Can we celebrate the gift of our sexuality and still remain true to our faith?
Thank God, the answer is yes! And we begin by reading the words he wrote about us. We do it by allowing ourselves to recognize the vital role that women played with his story of redemption. We do it by stripping way the layers of allegory and metaphor to get back to the humanity of his word and to see his delight in his creation. We stop accepting half-truths and easy interpretations that have allowed us to avoid the fact that God made us sexual beings with desirable bodies, sex drives, and the capacity to enjoy who he created us to be.
We reclaim of womanhood by not focusing on the curse of Eve and celebrate her not only as the mother of all humanity, but as the first to receive the promise of the Messiah that would come to this earth through body of a woman! We hear the song of Hannah as a woman becomes the first human to announce the coming of the Messiah, as she celebrates that God has blessed her sexuality in the promise of children. We read the story of Rahab and delight in the fact that God redeems our sexual mistakes so thoroughly that even a whore was deemed fit to be in the lineage of our Saviour.
We liberate the story of the Shulamite from the bondage of allegory and see her as a woman. From her we learn to chase after our husbands and to dance before him in abandon as he delights in our bodies. Perhaps most of all, we learn that our bodies were not created for his pleasure alone, but so that might enjoy this gift of sex with no shame, no guilt, and in utter amazement that God would create such a stunning being as a woman whose intimate union with her husband is one of the few image that begins to describe the deep delight he has in knowing his people.
When we stop treating sex like that sunglasses wearing polar bear, and learn to embrace our sexuality as a gift from God guarding our sexuality stops being motivated by guilt and shame. Instead, we are freed to enjoy its beauty through the revelation of God’s marvelous design for our bodies to be source of pleasure for our spouse and ourselves.
Emily Dixon is an artist, writer, and teacher, a mom, wife to Ty, and refurbisher of an awesome Gypsy Bus. She is convinced there is a desperate need for the truth of God’s love, mercy, and redeeming power to be shared with the world in a bold new way. She is the author of Scandalous, and blogs at Misdirected Musings.