Monday, November 2, 2009

Holding Out

Many Christians are celibate.

Some choose celibacy, in order to give themselves completely to some cause.

Others do not have high relational or sexual needs.

Some have never found a husband or wife.

Some are widowed.

Some are mentally, emotionally or physically disabled.

Some are married to people for whom sex is difficult, impossible or unpleasant.

Some are celibate because they believe – emotionally if not intellectually – that being holy is incompatible with being sexual.
All of these situations can be lonely or painful at times, even if they are the results of a deliberate choice.

Some of these situations can infect one’s everyday life with a sadness and emptiness that becomes increasingly difficult to overcome or to express.

The truth is, most of us are all sexual beings, even if we intentionally chose to be celibate. If we make our own choice about it, the frustration can be offered up to God, for who we have made our choice. However, if the choice is made for us, frustration often turns to bitterness. Bitterness, in turn, can lead to a sense of entitlement: the belief that we deserve whatever sexual experience we can find, even if it is addictive and dark.

Patrick Carnes’s books are exceptionally helpful for understanding all types of sexual addiction. However, his most perceptive book may be the one he called, Sexual Anorexia.

His concept is simple: the sexual anorexic does to sex what other anorexics do to food. An anorexic demonizes his or her own desire for, taste of and consumption of food. A sexual anorexic looks at his or her own sexual desire as disgusting.

Christians can disguise this illness behind spiritualized god-talk. They can sanctify their repudiation of sexual life with high-sounding words and religious emotions. When they do this though, the suffering they inflict upon themselves and others becomes an invisible poison. Their cruelty continues its destructive work, defended by their denial of responsibility and adulthood.

There are always emotional bills to pay for becoming sexually anorexic. Even if the sexual anorectic is single, his or her denial of reality can only last so long.

If the anorexic is married, the damage is multiplied may times over.

The sexual anorexic leaves his or her Christian partner without legitimate options. The emptiness at the core of marriage may feel like God’s fault. While the sexual anorexic may feel spiritually superior, his or her partner spirals downward into sadness, rage or even addictive behavior.

It does not help if the anorexic (with a sigh) gives in occasionally. The partner senses the disdain and spiritual condescension. It becomes easier to give up sex altogether that to endure the unspoken judgment that accompanies the begrudging “gift.”

Meanwhile, the Christian community urges the couple to maintain their fidelity. To unknowing eyes, the frustrated partner looks like the irresponsible and unstable person. Not knowing what goes on behind the couple’s public masks, the congregation praises many unions that has become little more than endurance contests. “Being faithful” becomes a mere “not acting out with others.” But what could be more faithless than holding out intimacy from one’s beloved? And if we do this in the name of holiness, what could be more a betrayal against the God of love than to blame him for one’s own coldness and hardness of heart?

We rightfully condemn society’s immorality and sexual addiction. Internet porn is especially a cultural curse and a humiliating private disease. All too many of us – male and female – are vulnerable to its allure. And, we must say, no one else is to blame for the addicts own plunge into that darkness. But in a Christian marriage, there should be a joyful, adventuresome and intimate alternative to a private theft of illegitimate pleasures.

For all too many Christians, there is not.

When we speak about sin, we immediately think of the many wrong things we do. Perhaps we should turn our attention sometime to those things left undone.”


Swordshadow said...

personally i think junk food/over weight & over work is ruining more of our lives than we credit, tho of course porno also/escapism & avoidance of dealing with problems).

Like many folks, i see what appears to be illness denial in others (and wonder how often we all miss the mark not knowing the full details of a person's life), but truthfully i don't know anyone who denies sex to their marital partner from denial hidden behind spiritual god talk(but imagine it happens with child bearing/pregnancy issues most regards worries on how to support more kids maybe).

I don't normally watch much tv other than christian channels, but recently was directed to watch some of Doc Oz ( who is supposedly going to talk on hoarders thursday)
Not knowing who this person was, i tuned in and the episode i caught was on this topic of sexual anorexia (supposedly some epidemic now that threatens the world)

This doc Oz person put up a challenge to americans to make three changes in their lives

one was to spend ten minutes a day talking to your partner
the other was to spend ten minutes three times a week in some kind of intimacy that isn't sexually foot massage maybe

and oh yeah..i remember now
the third was to have sex once a week
>>I may not know anyone who manages that even! but the first two seem DO ABLE for almost anyone..even i guess if you don't have a can remember to talk to your dog...put your voice in training to be pleasant and praising, give your pet a massage and get the neuro chemicals flowing before the bio chemistry of the body is irreversibly damaged by junk food or non use.

and try not to sulk or panic that
many of the blessings we deserve in life sometimes aren't forth coming in ways that seemingly we have entitlement to

sometimes i wonder if us Americans (over weight and over indulged ) suffer in some areas as message in how we neglect those suffering in others
it strikes me how many out there are starving..
so some sexual problems /anorexia may seem a message we need to take to heart. (do something more for the ways other folks starve or perhaps in how we starve GOD of our devotion and attention is reflected in some personal suffering we then experience to get it thru our heads we need to FOCUS better)

Anonymous said...

Very well written Pastor Dan. Thank you for expressing your views so clearly.