Hey… Thanks for meeting up. Can we just have one of those “brother to brother” conversations? Not the locker room kind, I’m thinking more coffee shop style. This one is on me. Let’s meet at Starbucks, exchange a firm handshake and pat on the back, grab our coffees and then find a seat at the back.
Tell you what; I’ll take the plunge. I have a lot on my mind. Pull up a chair…
Sex. I think I messed it up. Big time. You wouldn’t know it if you asked most of my friends. They think I’m pretty much perfect, some kind of innocent church kid who’s never seen porn. I wish I were.
I’m a twenty-something who grew up in a very Christian home. I believe in the importance of purity. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I have a strong commitment to waiting. I’m single, and I can’t wait to get married. I’m even praying for my future wife.
But… I’m not a virgin.
I’m convinced my parents gave me one of the most incredible sex talks ever delivered to an eight-year-old. It was amazing… Like, stunningly epic. There were no birds or bees, no cootie-filled anatomy pictures (with one exception— the classic half body x-ray of a baby forming in the mother’s womb). There was only one simple idea: My glorious God made us people with the beautiful ability to so love another person that the two could become one. The power of this oneness was so strong that God would use it to create new life from the two people.
I know… not a ton of anatomy here, but that wasn’t the point. In that conversation I saw a glimpse of my future, and it was straight from the Garden of Eden. It left me in awe. That conversation began in me the process of preparing to become a husband. What it didn’t prepare me for was my 14th birthday.
“Mom! Dad! Look what I got! It’s a Playboy magazine!”
I don’t know for certain why I stopped myself. Somehow I knew that when my street hockey pal gave me the manila envelope full of magazines, he meant for me to open it when I was at home, alone. I really had no idea what was in the envelope. None… And I definitely didn’t expect what it would pull out of my heart. Page after page I could literally feel my insides tearing apart. My brain was on fire,my body on autopilot and my heart isolated. The addiction was violently immediate, and I felt completely alone.
The only comforting emotion was shame, which I silently piled on myself by the bucket load. What a mess. This wasn’t the glorious purpose for my sexuality. There was no love in the empty eyes of each model, nor in the attempts of my imagination to turn them somehow back into real people. I wanted to stop, but something about the fact that a woman on a page would put herself out there to anonymously engage my sex drive seemed almost more real than the seemingly sterile world of a Christian culture where sexuality was a disconnected mythology. I was trapped, robbed of a beautiful innocence and totally frustrated in my attempts to do something about it. The worst part was… I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to take most of our nice, Christian, “I’m struggling” language, and swap it out for a more raw, “I’m a sexual mess” rendition. Seriously.
I’m deeply unsatisfied with having to pretend that I have this whole sex thing together… I don’t. I’m working on it. I often feel like a failure. I often feel guilty, confused and broken. Sometimes it’s like a nightmare trying to track my hormones. And then there’s church. At times God’s presence feels so real, so tangible. My heart cries out for more of Him. But if Sunday was so good, why am I fighting to feel Him on Monday night?
Everyday I’m confronted and affected by a pressing culture of overt hyper-sexuality. It’s pervasive. Radio, television, Internet… I can’t check my email without facing a bombardment of sexual messages. A simple Google search for something completely unrelated and up comes a string of barely clothed women— some of them seriously attractive. I’m in downtown Toronto all the time. Did anyone else notice the three story billboards of women in lingerie? What the heck!
As Christians we’ve mostly just accepted that this is the way things are. Then why can’t we seem to face the way we are? When was the last sermon you heard where a pastor walked you through his or her honest journey of sexual redemption? Am I the only person whose puberty was a nightmare?
The closer I get to God, the more He opens up my garbage. I would talk about it if I didn’t feel like the only one with this kind of junk to deal with. I know this is not true. But think of the flip side: if I’m so good at pretending, what about all of these well dressed “godly men” around me? Have any of them truly conquered the sexual side of their humanity? Are we all just hypocrites?
I’ll never forget my first kiss. I was 17; she must have been older. Our lips met on a rooftop under the stars… The moment was like a terrifying thunderclap— God was not pleased! I knew it, but pretended that I was okay. Then she said it… “Nate, I don’t know why, but I feel like Eve in the Garden of Eden.”Whoa! Where did that come from? Or maybe the better question is, what just happened? Where am I?
These are messy questions, I know. But my life has been messy! Good luck sorting through the patterns and trends of my past relationships. So many different stories; one common factor— me. And I really don’t want to bring this into a marriage!
I still believe that our sexuality is a pure, beautiful, spiritual thing— a powerful expression of who we are in God. Sex is about “knowing” and “being known” in the most intimate sense. But only God knows who we are in spirit. If we don’t live with hearts united to God in trust, then our sexuality becomes self-centred, increasingly devoid of life-giving spirit. Without that, what can we experience? Whatever it is, it isn’t true sex; not as God created it for us. It always comes up short. Personally, I’m sick of coming up short. How about you?
So the real question is this: Do I honestly believe that what God has for me is actually the best for me? My mentor Phil put it this way. “Do you believe that God loves you enough to give you what you truly need?” His second question was even more convicting. “Nate, do you love God enough to wait for what He has for you?” Talk about a paradigm shift.
Maybe this is the whole point. We were never meant to sort this out in isolation, silent islands drifting through the church. God is not sending us out alone. He is taking us on a journey. We just run ahead sometimes. Let’s repent and let go of the garbage. Let’s go back to the garden and practice intimacy with God. We still have the power to create. It is still possible for us to walk with God today. And we can walk with each other.
So, seriously, thank you for meeting up. I say we do this more often.
Nathanael Gerber is passionate about arts, culture and communication. He currently serves as the youth pastor at Nashville Road Community Church in Kleinberg, Ontario, is the founding director of Divine Force Company, and the Contemporary Music Director at Christ Church Anglican. For more info see www.nategerber.com
The article above was featured in the May 2009 issue of SEVEN magazine.