Fifty

This morning when I woke up, I lay awake for a while and started singing in my head “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman. It was the song I played at my baptism and the first time in a long time that I had thought about it.

So I got up, fired up the old lappy, searched for Jon Foreman on Spotify, chucked on my good headphones and listened to that song. I really love listening to music through good headphones and doing nothing else, just concentrating on the sounds that come through into your ears.

I played that song, and then I played “The House of God Forever” which was also played at my baptism. There’s a part in it that says – Your shepherd’s staff / Comforts me – and in that moment, as the song played those lines, I felt God say to me “I know where we’re going”.

The last several months have seen some of the hardest minutes, hours, days, weeks, that I’ve ever experienced. One of the side effects of grief is being ripped away from a life that you thought was safe, that you could rely on, a life that you thought you were in control of. I’ve never felt so lost as I have this year, never felt this deep lack of purpose and meaning in my life.

Now I feel like it’s going to be okay. Because even if I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing with my life, that nothing I do will ever amount to anything, it’s okay. It’s okay because God knows where we’re going.

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Forty Three

This one’s for the purity rhetoric.

You know, that narrative that says if you “save yourself” for marriage, the reward is a deep and meaningful relationship that is so much more worthwhile and better than those others, that you will only ever connect with the first person you have sex with so you better make sure it’s the person you agree to spend the rest of your life with because if not, you’re going to be damaged goods and no one wants that.

It’s bullshit.

I’m 27 now and I can see the fruit of the damage that that rhetoric has caused – in my friends, in me.

Imagine learning and internalising that you have this one ultimate gift, one trump card, for that one person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with. Now imagine that you think you’ve found that person, and you give them this ultimate gift, but then life happens and you’re on your own again but who are you now, if not an empty shell because you’ve given away the one thing that you had. This is the purity rhetoric.

It is so damaging, so traumatic and so oppressive.

We are human, and we have human needs. There is no shame in acting on these needs. But this is the result of the purity rhetoric – it shames and rejects those who go against it.

Me – I’m in my late twenties and still haven’t had sex. I feel cheated of a more fulfilling life, of a life that feels more lived. I feel like I’ve bought into this rhetoric, that’s promised me so much and delivered nothing. I’m in the same position as I was 10 years ago, and only starting to explore what I like sexually when most people my age already know what works for them.

I have friends who still carry with them the shame they felt for having sex outside of a marriage context, this affects the relationships they’re in today, years later. I know of couples who aren’t able to have sex even after being married because they have so deeply internalised the forbidden nature of it that they can’t bring themselves to actually do it. I know of married couples who aren’t able to shake the feeling of shame from the act of sex.

This is not healthy. This can’t be the way that it was intended.

Who even decided that sex was taboo? That it was only intended for marriage? Marriage as an institution was established hundreds of years after Christ. Relationships, all sorts of different types of relationships have existed in all of history. So why this one thing? This is one of the contentions I have with Christianity and religion in general – some things are so arbitrary.

We Christians need to change the way that we talk about sex. Sure, there are chemical reactions in our brain that help us connect with one another more but this isn’t limited to one person. We can connect with multiple people and we are more than what we give. We need to destroy the purity rhetoric if we want to see healthier relationships and healthier people, people who aren’t damaged by the shame that this narrative generates.

Two

A week after J and I broke up, I visited a church I don’t normally go to. During one of the songs, the pastor there came up to me, asked me my name and then described a vision he had of God making a daisy chain flower crown for me, said he felt God say that I was precious to Him, that He would bring something beautiful out of a place that’s been torn apart. The words that came to him (the pastor) were from Isaiah, specifically the part about beauty for ashes:

“He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1-3

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty for ashes and what it means. At first, I held onto it like a lifeline, repeating it like a mantra, trying desperately to find hope and peace in it.

Then, I became overwhelmed with sadness and amongst that, a lot of frustration and anger towards God for not delivering on this beauty.

Today I’ve been thinking about how ashes by definition mean that something has burned out, has died, and maybe that’s what I need to happen for beauty to come out of this shitty situation. I don’t know how I feel about this idea, because as painful as it is to be where I am at the moment, I don’t know if I can bear to let him go yet.

also don’t know how I feel about God and Christianity in general at the moment either. I was brought up in a Christian home and I understand most of the Christian ideas but often find it hard to reconcile the Jesus and God that I think I know, with the one that the majority of people who call themselves Christians say they follow. Anyway, deconstruction is a whole other topic that will probably feature in another post but in the meantime, how can I hold as authority something that I don’t even know if I believe? Maybe I’m just so desperate for something good, a reassurance that how I’m feeling now won’t be forever. Or maybe there is something worthwhile there? I don’t know, I guess we’ll find out.