Tuesday, August 4, 2009

God's Most Dangerous Disguise

Ready for some provocative stuff...? Do we dare to let ourselves conceive of God through what has traditionally been considered "profane"...?

(Though, honestly, profane comes from the Latin words pro fanum - or "outside the Temple" ... the veil has been torn ... there is now nothing separated from that which is holy, and there is no need for a temple ... I see that we are in the time in which everything is said to be "Holy unto the Lord", but I digress ...)

- My guess is that how we relate to one thing is probably how we relate to everything. How we relate sexually is probably a good teacher and indicator of how we relate to God (& how we relate to God is probably a good teacher and indicator of how we will relate to everything else). Religion and relationship are one, it seems. Religion, as the very word re-ligio, indicates, is the task of putting our divided realities back together: human and divine, male and female, heaven and earth, sin and salvation, mistake and glory. The mystics are those who put it together very well. Many faithful lovers, artists, and seers put it together without even knowing that they might be mystics ...

(Well alrighty then, let's just dive right in! I like that -- putting our divided realities back together. Dualistic thinking so very much permeates our consciousness, that we tend to not question it ... and yet perhaps the concept of us being whole, integrated, is a deeper and truer reality. Perhaps "opposites" are meant to be observed, for context, but not meant to be definitive of our truest identity and experience ...)

- Let me offer the words of a Moslem mystic, Shams-ud-din Mohammed Hafiz (1320-89), who writes Person poetry with such integration between human love and divine love that the reader often loses the awareness of which is which. Listen to his "You Left a Thousand Women Crazy":

Last Time,
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and so naked,

You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.

Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay it's Ancient Love at Your feet.

(Whew! What does that imagery do to you -- do you cringe, thinking it "improper"? Does it seem to invade through some well-fortressed boundary? Does it strike you as dangerous? Or are you able to see how God, who invented sexuality and its inherent power, means to use it as a deeper-than-physical message of how HE wants our relationship with Him to be..? So why are we taught to separate God from sexuality within traditional Christianity? What happened to "naked and unashamed"? Is it lost to us? Can it be recaptured, metaphorically, experientially?)

- One would think that if there were any religion that would have most welcomed this integration [of spirituality and sexuality] it would be Christianity. After all, it's the only world religion that believes that God became a human body. We call this the "Incarnation" and we call him "Jesus." And yet, Christianity has relegated the body to a shadowy realm. This hardly demands verification after a cursory look at the tragic sexual state, the pollution of the physical earth, or gross unbalanced consumerism, our pendulum swings between obesity and dieting, between "couch-potato numbness and obsessive fitness concerns. Sex is the one "sin" in America that we are all supposed to be upset and shocked about - "while omitting the weightier matters of the Law - justice, mercy and good faith." We are clearly not very at home in our bodies, and Jesus came to show us that it is our human and this-world experience that we must and can trust. It is our necessary and good starting point. Because of the Incarnation, the material world becomes the privileged place for the divine encounter. But most of us are still shooting for the stars. We are looking at ascents and "higher states of consciousness" and moral perfectionism, while Jesus quite simply comes "and lives among us."

(Much there to consider, no? I love how this ties in so beautifully with what Kevin Beck shared yesterday. If we were *only* to be having a spiritual experience, why would God go to the trouble of putting us in human bodies, on this physical planet..? The goal, it seems to me, is not to either negate this physical world, nor to be mesmerized by it, but to see beyond it, to the more true-truth of our spiritual reality, and to bring that spiritual awareness back INTO the physical realm ... while being IN the world and not OF it, we are nevertheless to fully enjoy and celebrate the gift of this physical/earth experience. Jesus, in choosing to inhabit human flesh, has shown us, definitively and without question, that human flesh is still, and always has been "Very Good", as God first declared us to be. And yes, this includes the gift and beauty of our sexuality ... God, the inventor of sex, is very pro-sex.)

- I know what [some of] you are thinking - and feeling. "This is dangerous stuff!" "What if it's all wrong?" "Where might this lead us?" "How do I know that this is not another excuse for narcissism, sensuality, and people hurting people?"

(Y'know, that's possible! But those things are happening right now, have always *been* happening, even with all the many prohibitions -- or perhaps, in part because of them. Including amongst Christians. How many happy, healthy, peaceful, well-adjusted Christians do you know? A lot? A few? Don't the few stand out in stark contrast to the many? Where is the proof that we've actually discovered the power of the truth that Christianity claims it declares? The current twisted sexual climate isn't just the result of human "sin" but also due to not discovering how to be whole and integrated - and thus healed - in the sexual realm. "Just say no" doesn't work, and it ain't wisdom...! One could make a case that it, like fear, is the beginning of wisdom - at least for those in puberty or addiction - but we've got to get beyond the beginning and discover how God really sees sexuality, so that we can be free to use the gift in the way in which it was intended. We may need to go deeper, in order to see what's going on beneath the surface here ...)

- The forgiveness inherent in our faith teaches that all of us are much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves. Your life is not about "you." It is part of a much larger stream called God. Faith might be precisely that ability to trust the river, to trust the flow and the lover. It is process that we don't have to change, coerce, or improve. We need to allow it to flow. That takes immense confidence in God, especially when we're hurting. Usually, I can feel myself getting panicky. I want to make things right quickly. I lose my ability to be present and I go up into my head and start obsessing. I tend to be overfocused and I hate it because then I'm not really feeling anymore. I'm into goal-orientation, trying to push or even create the river - the river that is already flowing through me. But faith does not need to push the river precisely because it is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing and we are in it. The river is God's providential love - so do not be afraid.

(I adore Richard's transparency here -- it invites me to follow suit, to not be afraid of revealing who I am, and how I struggle ... when we reveal ourselves, we take away the power of shame, of secrecy ... we can all relate, and we can laugh at the absurdity of our follies ... we're all in this together, and we don't need to continue the false burden of pretending that we're other than where we are, stumbling our way into all truth, as He leads. It's OK. Very OK.)

- We need not give emotional food or charge to our fears or become attached to them. We don't even have to shame ourselves for having these fears. Simply ask your fears, "What are you saying to me about what is real?" What are you trying to teach me?" Some say that FEAR is merely an acronym for "false evidence appearing real." Ask yourself, "what am I afraid of?" "Does it matter?" "Is it worth holding onto?" We have to ask whether it is fear that keeps us from loving. I promise you, grace will lead us into those fears and voids, and grace alone will fill them up. If we are willing to stay in the void. We mustn't engineer an answer too quickly. We must not get too settled too fast. For it is so easy to manufacture an answer to take away the anxiety.

(If only we could each see how very much our fears are influencing, if not *ruling* us! If only we could stop running from our fears, denying them, suppressing them, and pretending we're "just fine, praise the Lord" and allow the Lord, who is the one exposing our fears, to take us into them, show us the no-things that they really are, and then show us the truth that both replaces them and sets us free...! This, in essence, is the renewal of the mind. We get so busy defending our fears - wrongly assuming them to be our required foundations, the glue that keeps us in "relationship" with God - that we instead blame the person/circumstance who is "triggering" our fears, or we blame the "devil" for tempting us. All the while, we're really resisting God's attempts to heal us from the inside-out, and we thus ensure that we'll just have to go "round that rock again." Like the Israelites, we can stay in the desert for 40 years, or else we can let God lead us through the necessary wilderness more efficiently. It takes what it takes, and nothing is wasted -- it all depends on whether we're yet ready, yet "able to bear" the "much more" that Jesus has for us - the "all truth" that the Spirit is leading us into. It seems to me that we either circle the familiar with our fear, or else we step out onto the less-traveled path in love -- the choice is ours. NOTE: this is not about "destination" ... we're already IN God. this is about awareness and experience -- *how* we will experience this current life ... will it be the status quo life, or the Abundant Life...?)

- What must be sacrificed, and it will feel like a sacrifice, is the attachment and the strange satisfaction that problem-solving gives us. Don't you feel good when you've solved problems at the end of the day? We say to ourselves, "I'm an effective, productive, efficient human being. I've earned my right to existence today because I've solved ten problems."

(That cracks me up! How does he *know* my before-bed litany?!? As a mama of 8, I'm forever behind on my "to do" list ... and with my creative personality, I can procrastinate with the best of 'em! Just sitting around waiting for creational motivation to fall on my lap and possess me..! So, on those days when I do get much accomplished -- particularly those long-put-off nag-fest things -- I DO feel like an effective, productive and efficient human being ...! Hmmm... what does that say about me?)

- We mustn't lead with our judgments and fears. We shouldn't lead with our need to fix and solve problems. This is the agenda-filled calculating mind that cannot see things through God's eyes. We must not get rid of the anxiety until we have learned what it wants to teach us.

(Ahhh, everything wants to teach me something! But of course ... this is a school of love. An environment perfectly set up to challenge and shake up every concept I erroneously learn early in life, so that I can come to know that I don't know, which enables me to *really* know...! The blessed irony of it all!)

- We need to be able to both cry and laugh at life ... weeping is different from beating up on ourselves [or others]. Weeping is a gentle release of water that washes and renews. Weeping leads to owning our complicity in the problem. Weeping is the opposite of blaming and also the opposite of denying. It leads to deep healing when inspired by the Spirit. On the other hand, if you can't laugh after fifty or sixty years, we probably haven't done things well. Were taking ourselves too seriously; we have not discerned the mystery. Remember, everything finally belongs. If we can't laugh, we are probably holding our debts against ourselves and we haven't accepted forgiveness.

(Or ... to go a bit deeper, perhaps there was nothing to be forgiven for...? Perhaps that was a human misperception that came out of our own shame and fear, and sense of false-separation ...? Maybe ...)

Wondering now, could our fear of being human, fully human, humanity-that-God-delights-in, be keeping us from fully appreciating, stewarding and celebrating our sexuality? Do we need to do some questioning of our own thinking, our own beliefs behind the thinking? Thoughts about our bodies ("not good enough," "dirty," "sinful"), thoughts about sex ("God turns His head everytime we "do the nasty" "Good Christian women/men don't enjoy sex" "God puts up with sex in order to get more babies out of the equation"). May God show us what we really believe, and replace our licentious and/or repressive thinking with the truth about sex, the beauty of sex, and yes - the JOY of sex, as He intended it when He came up with it...!

Shalom, Dena


MysticBrit said...

Mystics of the World Unite! Ah... the Joy of Heresy and Profanity...

What better idea can we liken the adoration of the heart of God for His Beloved to than by the most ecstatic physical experience we know? And even that is a pale reflection of the reality.

The human body is stupendous, even with all its weaknesses. Let's celebrate it, and so celebrate Reckless Love, its Creator!

Amen, Sister!:D

Sue said...

How bizarre that God has been separated out of the sexual equation. How could it ever have happened, with the Bible being what it is, with Christ being in a body? The repression of so many Christians is sort of mind boggling to me, I have to say. I am not involved in any Christian culture here in Australia, and my country is so different to yours in so many ways.

How refreshing to read this tonight, to hear a Christian talking about sex. Your blog and thoughts are very refreshing to me, Dena. I've been feeling a bit blah today (which you would have noticed if you'd read my blog, haha. Keeping those whingey whiney blog posts up there is a sort of exercise in healing for me, which may sound sort of strange. But it's this desire to be whole, to be willing to admit my faults and my messes, and so even though I am tempted to delete those types of posts, it feels healthier to me to keep them up :)

Anyway, going to bed now. Thanks as always for sahring your thoughts :)

Dena said...

You whinge, girl! Yeah, get it all out ... confession is good for the soul, and when the crud is out of the way, God shines through.

As for speaking out about sex ... when God liberates someone from a former enslavemenet, how can one *not* talk?!? Having experienced severe dysfunction in this arena, and then delicious liberation, the difference is stark unto me. I want all the freedom I can receive, all the freedom I can cooperate in inspiring!

Wholeness, in every aspect, is our inheritance. We can be greedy that way.

Shalom, Dena

Rich said...


I especially liked this, "- We mustn't lead with our judgments and fears. We shouldn't lead with our need to fix and solve problems. This is the agenda-filled calculating mind that cannot see things through God's eyes. We must not get rid of the anxiety until we have learned what it wants to teach us.

(Ahhh, everything wants to teach me something! But of course ... this is a school of love. An environment perfectly set up to challenge and shake up every concept I erroneously learn early in life, so that I can come to know that I don't know, which enables me to *really* know...! The blessed irony of it all!)

The sheer wonder and beauty of His, using ALL things to fully form the Life of Christ in us as us!

Dena said...

Ain't it grand, Rich? 'Course, I may need to be reminded of such, next time a lesson smacks me upside the head, with less obvious grace than I'd *perfer*...!

Shalom, Dena