John Phillip Newell, in his powerful book Christ of the Celts, tells a story about sitting with a leader of the Pueblo tribe in New Mexico. He was speaking to this tribal elder about the Celtic tradition of “listening for the heartbeat of God” in all creation – a way of seeing that comes from the Apostle John, who, according to tradition, leaned against the chest of Christ at the Last Supper and therefore “heard the heartbeat of God.”
Newell told the tribal elder that it’s essential that we move in our world listening and looking for the heartbeat – a very countercultural way of looking at things in our Christian world, where it seems we would rather tell people what freedom MUST look like and sound like – what language it must speak and songs it must sing.
After Newell finished waxing poetic about this concept, the Pueblo elder said gently, “Yes. We too know the heartbeat.” He then began to beat out an ancient rhythm on a drum he was holding on his lap.
Newell felt embarrassed to have held forth the way he did to someone who knew this truth so intimately. Throughout history, we Christians have many times moved through the world explaining to the world that freedom MUST look a certain way – it must speak our language, wear our clothes, read our books, and believe our narratives. This, of course, led to the suppression of any way of seeing or knowing the Creator that these people may have been given over the last, say, 10,000 years or so.
What if my ancestors, when encountering all these cultures throughout history, had walked softly into these lands with their ears to the ground, their hearts open, and their eyes searching for places where the fingerprints of God were already present? What might the world look like today? What would we have learned about God, our world, and ourselves?
The bigger question is: what if we looked at our sexuality that same way? What if we start with the truth that our humanity is the glory of God and that our sexual desires are a part of that glory? If we can recognize the light that’s already present, we might understand the shadow better. The Celts call Jesus, “The Fully Human One,” come to show us the beauty of our humanity in its fullest. With that in mind, here are three ways to manifest the true Glory of God in your sexuality:
1) Understand the nature of your weaknesses.
Cursing your sexual desires or struggles and believing that they require guilt and shame or a penance of some sort denies the grace that we’ve been given, which is the glory of God. It is in our weakness that we are made perfect. Perfection was never the destination, but rather perfection is a road always moving deeper into a beautiful mystery of God’s grace. And on any road, the only step that matters is the next one. (see 2 Corinthians 12)
2) Seek out the deepest expression of your sexual desires.
Yes – there are very destructive ways to use your sexuality. These actions are often born of a type of blindness that exists because we carry so much pain inside of us. We are survivors – and our desires so often are co-opted as a mechanism used to just stay alive internally. Things like pornography act as medicine for our unconscious wounds. What if we asked the question: what are we medicating? How could that lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves? And how could that in turn help us find true healing and the experience of the glory of God in our sexuality?
3) Be brave.
Know that in this process of being human, the quickest way to the life you want is to move into your fears. Whatever you fear, walk into it: and understand that whatever you find there will change you forever if you have the courage to face it. A good example: If you’re afraid to tell anyone about what you’re going through – find someone who will not judge you and give a voice to your weaknesses. Show your fears that they do not have the final say on the direction of your life. And know that Christ walks with you in that shadowy place. And His glory is alive, even in the darkness.
St. Iraneus said that the glory of God is man fully alive. Blessings on the road where you discover that your limp is as glorious as your leap