SpiritStirrer

sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Tag: sex

Very Married: A Review

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The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.

Gabriel García-Márquez

The music begins and the couple walks proudly and anxiously towards the future, a future together. Decisions have been made, preparations completed, and now it’s time for covenant making, vow taking, or maybe just contract signing. No matter what, life together begins.

As one who gets the joy of witnessing and officiating at these public/private, sacred/secular, end/beginning type of events I’ve often wondered if there is something that can prepare the couple for this momentous event. Would this couple take vows if their future life together was revealed to them? Would that vision help them discern or prepare them?

Maybe it’s best that Hallmark cards, romantic comedies, Instagram pictures, and the wedding industry monopolize the marriage press! Or maybe we were just waiting for Katherine Willis Pershey to provide us with the revelation that all engaged and married couples needed, a revelation of the beauty and trials of married life.

Very Married: Fieldnotes on Love and Fidelity is not for the faint of heart. Pershey’s poetic prose leads us openly yet carefully through the landscape of married life. As she aptly tells us the “agony, ecstasy, and tedium of wedlock.” (18) This is not the stuff that we are used to hearing about nor the kind of journey that we expect from one who is both married and who officiates at marriages. Yet Very Married is the book needed to awaken all of us to the beauty, reality, and poetry that is life together.

Very Married sets itself apart in how humbly it speaks to those of us who have ears to hear. Pershey’s tone is rooted in the Christian practice of testimony, the humble recognition of God’s presence in the midst of life. This testimony is not just an individual encounter with God but the result of living life in covenant with another. Her vulnerability and honesty are palpable as she guides us through the inner life of one who desires to live life together with another yet found herself ill-prepared for the reality of what that meant.

As she tells her story we quickly realize that all of us come to life together unprepared and yet it is there, in our willingness to recognize the mystery, that grace comes visiting, that blessing becomes activated.

My favorite part of the wedding ceremony is the blessing of the marriage. As I wrap my stole around the hands of the couple I invoke the Spirit. I ask for the Spirit to make them fruitful, to make them one, to help them recognize, like Pershey, that “I know now, and I am known now, in marriage.”

This knowing comes with joys and sorrows. It tests our capacity to be faithful, to stay attentive to our chosen over the long term. It tests our capacity to forgive, to reconcile, and to begin again. It also tests our capacity to love another as we live life with them.

There is yet more for us to know of each other, physically, spiritually, emotionally. And as husband and wife we have the incredible freedom to explore each other without hesitation or shame.

Katherine Willis Pershey in Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity, 94

The struggles of life together challenge our self-centeredness, immaturity, and desire for control. God uses this way of life to transform us, or as my United Methodist tradition calls it, to “sanctify” us. Pershey’s willingness to share with us her journey in grace allows all of us to identify the God moments in our own relationships and to recognize that “even a family’s sorrows give way to gratitude, eventually.”(164) Pershey’s candor reminds us that perseverance, tenacity, and humility are key components to becoming very married.

Katherine Willis Pershey does not shy away from the difficult topics connected to married life. From pre-marital sexuality, infidelity, and submission to same-sex marriage, divorce, and death, Pershey guides us with humor, humility, and understanding. Like a faithful pastor, she shines a light behind the closed doors of covenant life. Along the way she gives us hope that in the midst of the many challenges that marriage faces today “[t]here’s no shame in needing covenant to live.”(210)

So take up and read! In Very Married we are gifted with an invitation to a new-old way of living life together. Pershey gifts us with a faithful blueprint to the daily rebuilding of this thing we call marriage. Now is up to us, letting our very married life end daily by making love and following the blueprint to rebuild it, again and again, before breakfast!

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Thankful to Herald Press for providing me an advanced copy of the book for this review.

Biblical Erotica: Bi90 Special Edition

Your stately form is like the palm,
Your breast are like clusters.
I say: Let me climb the palm,
Let me take hold of its branches;
Let your breasts be like clusters of grapes,
Your breath like the fragrance of apples,
And your mouth like the choicest wine.
‘Let it flow to my beloved as new wine
Gliding over the lips of sleepers.’

The Song of Songs 7:8-10 (TANAKH)

Some say that we live in a sexualized society. Sex is used to sell everything from auto parts to cleaning products. Movies make it or break it on scenes that leave little to the imagination. Stars make headlines with the dresses they wear, politicians for the pictures they take of themselves.

I don’t think we live in a sexualized society I think we live in a objectified one. We “use” sexuality,” better yet a dis-ordered type of sexuality that becomes a tool not of relationship but another commodity to be exploited. This expression of sexuality really gives sex a bad name.

There is nothing wrong with sexuality. It is part of what makes us human, the ability to share our bodies with another, to connect, bond, and make love incarnate, is really a gift. We were made this way, our bodies are wired to desire connection, touch, and intimacy. Unlike animals whose sexuality is strictly reproductive, humanity’s sexual expression is primarily about bonding, connecting, to another.

Christianity has a difficult track record with this part of being human. From Paul, who basically said engage in it if you must (although he rather you not) to today where many of the culture wars center around issues of sexuality, we struggle with what to say about it. Most of the time we try to control it as if it was some kind of created flaw in us.

I long for a Christian ethic that celebrates our sexuality and helps people of faith live into its fullness. After all we know that sexuality is powerful, its bonding hard to break, its consequences (positive or negative) can last a lifetime. We also that know that it can easily be abused, objectified, and misdirected.

We cannot remain silent or ignore it. We must find ways to dialogue as God’s people about what it means to be embodied beings, sensual, and communal. We must speak about what it means to live our sexual lives in ways that honor our being made in God’s image. In ways that honor God’s call for our continued growth in Christ-likeness.

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