Singleness & Sexuality
- Wednesday, April 14, 2004
One of the great luxuries of singleness, according to Lucy in the movie While You Were Sleeping, is sole possession of the remote control. One lazy afternoon I was enjoying this luxury to its fullest, and predictably, nothing worth watching was on. However, something about being positioned in front of a screen with a bowlful of popcorn makes me feel like I must watch something, so I continued to flick through the stations with the half-hearted expectation that something would magically appear (a habit akin to opening the refrigerator door and staring into it every ten minutes.
Do I think food grows in there? And if it does, do I want to eat it?) Well, something did magically appear (or the commercials finally ended) and the remote screeched to a halt at a talk show whose topic shocked me into stopping. (I think my hand froze in the popcorn bowl, too.) "I'm a virgin. SURPRISE! Wanna be my first?"
I watched in astonishment as teen-aged girls confided to the hostess (and the national viewing audience) that they were virgins, but, whew, had picked the guy friends they wanted to be "their first." These unsuspecting friends were stashed backstage, awaiting their moments in the "hot seat" when the girls confessed their unfortunate predicament and asked their male friends if they'd be willing to fix this regrettable situation.
I listened to this sordid script long enough to see two girls turned down, and even though the reasons were "good" and the girls told their friends it was okay, it was obvious that it really wasn't. In desperation they had humiliated themselves, embarrassed their friends, and experienced rejection in the most intimate of matters.
Why? Because according to cultural standards, sexual activity has a lot to do with value and identity. The shock of their friends and the pity of the audience said that it was unthinkable and nearly tragic for these teen girls to be virgins. Sex happens for "normal people." If you're not having sex, you're not quite normal.
Sex is certainly a good thing - Paul affirms this against the backdrop of immoral Corinth when he told the church that marriage is good and sex is part of marriage. Withholding sex from a spouse was not a commendable thing, as many in the Corinthian church had determined (1 Corinthians 7:1-9). Sex is God's incredible design for oneness. He didn't have to make us male and female. He could have come up with another way to populate the earth. In fact, by the time He created man, He had already invented some pretty ingenious forms of reproduction; He could've designed us to be fruitful and multiply like budding fungus or like the broken-off body parts of starfish. Really, He could have. Instead, He made us male and female for the very reason that He intended us to need each other. It is biologically obvious that men and women were meant to go together.
But maleness and femaleness encompass more than the physical relationship between a man and woman. Whether or not one's sexuality is expressed in the physical act of sex, it is expressed in thousands of other ways because sexuality defines who we are. In every cell of my body, every thought in my head, every emotion in my being, and every nuance of my personality, I am female.
Because God made male and female—and designed them to need each other—the sexuality that defines us also reminds us that we are not all we can be by ourselves. "Sexuality," say theologians Stanley Grenz and Roy Bell, "lies behind the human quest for completeness, expressed through the drive toward bonding." Most obviously, this drive of sexuality is what attracts us to members of the opposite sex for intensely physical bonding. But because sexuality is not limited to a physical act, it is also the drive behind our craving for non-sexual relationships. Although I am a complete person, I do not have everything I need for fully balanced living. Sometimes my thinking is way out in left field and I need the logical perspective of another person to bring me back to reality. At other times my emotional scales are tipped beyond apparent retrieval, and I need the balancing response of another person to make my world level again.
Sexuality lies behind our desire, our need, for friendship and community. Because God made us social, only in each other are we complete people. God is a triune community; we, His image bearers, reflect Him best in community.
This quest for completion cannot be satisfied by a spouse, by friendships, or by any of the traditional solutions of fame, fortune, and fun. Page through Ecclesiastes—it's all been tried before, and it all comes down to fearing God and keeping His commandments. Rephrased centuries later by Augustine, another man who had tried it all, our hearts are restless until they come to rest in God. Completeness is only found in God through Christ—a relationship that joins us to a community of people looking forward to the ultimate fulfillment of all human restlessness—or sexuality—the consummation of all things, when we will live forever with God.
The gift of godly singleness is a continual reminder to believers, and we are prone to forget, that sexuality is not defined by sexual activity. Sexuality is a God-given aspect of His image that drives us first to Him and then to one another in non-sexual relationships. We need Him to be satisfied and we need each other to be complete. We need the community of Christ's body.
Excerpted from A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After, copyright 2003 Wendy Widder. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mich. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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