God Didn't Make Our Bodies Only for Sex
When I look back on my most exciting adventures as a single woman, I won't remember wishing I'd been having sex instead. I didn't. Yes, I am trying to obey God through chastity during this season, but closing myself off to sex has hardly closed me off to my body as well.
The day after I turned 33, I climbed inside a small, three-wheeled taxi, rode to the edge of a jungle deep in the Amazon, and hiked 90 minutes to a tiny village. Several hours later, I found myself eating cake with students at a small mission school there after a few rounds "Feliz Cumpleaños" in honor of my birthday and a special anniversary for the school.
I could not have been more bodily present to that adventure than I was. It was more than enough, to feel a sandy, wood-plank floor beneath bare feet, smell the cooking fire over which a late-night snack was prepared, hear the joyful singing of strangers with whom I shared a deep spiritual kinship, see their smiles in the flickering light, and eat the cake with which we celebrated each other and our vastly good God.
In his goodness, that God has kept me single far longer than I ever wanted. Yet perhaps precisely because I have stayed single for so long, I have been free to visit a dozen countries and more than 20 states, free to hear jazz in India, feel equatorial rain on my skin in Singapore, eat tiny fried shark in New Zealand, smell sage and piñon in Santa Fe, andsee the 200-year-old home where my great grandmother lived as a girl on the Isle of Mann.
Do then I define my single adulthood as saying no to sex or as stretching the boundaries of bodily experience ever outward? Both are true in a way, yet I would argue the latter accounts more completely for my life since I left home.
As I wrote last week, however, the church often lapses into focusing mainly on negative advice to singles — "Don't have sex" — rather than giving us positive exhortations we can live into. And we do this despite the fact that Adam and Eve were ensnared precisely by focusing not on the complex and beautiful garden God gave them to enjoy and cultivate, but on the one tree from which they weren't allowed to eat. An entire world of freedom was narrowed down to a single restriction.
To some extent, the overemphasis on sex may reflect an underlying Gnosticism, as others have noted. The Protestant church tends to favor an ascetic approach to worship that privileges the ears over a more full-bodied engagement with God and each other. Though communion provides the most multi-sensory experience, many churches take it only monthly.