ONE FLESH: Embracing Self-Discovery & Sexual Diversity in Lent
Lent is upon us! For the longest time I practiced Lent as if it was a New Years reboot. All those resolutions that crashed and burned from a few months ago could now be revived. Could I go 40 days without sugar? Dare I try to go the entire season without watching porn? What if I could go the whole time without smoking weed? Only recently have I come to understand this season is more about a time for introspection. Lent can be more than just a time to challenge myself to something that might be mildly difficult. Lent can be a time of experiencing the real impacts of Christ’s death and resurrection in our lives, if we let it.
Lent is kicked off with Ash Wednesday every year. A day we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Ultimately, being reminded every year that our time here on earth is limited and finite. So what am I going to do with it? This is the question I ask myself this Lenten season. I believe my greatest calling in life is to simply love God, love my neighbor, and love myself. What do I do in my life that reflects this and is there any room for improvement? Of course there is. These are the moments when Paul's sense of urgency rings true the most. The time is now, let's not waste it. Take life by the balls and let's find ways in which we can improve for the sake of ourselves, our neighbors, and our connection with God. And let's remember our sex life is not immune to this type of improvement.
As we enter into the season of Lent, many Christians begin to focus on spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, one aspect of our lives that is often overlooked during this time is our sexuality. While sex is often seen as something outside of the realm of religion, the truth is that it is an important aspect of how God created our humanity and can be included in our Lenten spiritual practice in meaningful ways. In fact, there are too many ways to wrap up in one blog. So let's explore five ways you can include sexual practices into your Lenten spiritual season.
Sexuality has often been considered a taboo subject within the church and religious circles. However, the neglect of sexuality within a religious context can lead to a disconnection between the body and spirit, and can have negative impacts on mental and emotional health. Therefore, it is important to explore how sexuality can be incorporated into our Lenten spiritual practice in a way that is meaningful, healthy, and empowering.
Use Sexuality as a Means of Connection and Intimacy
with Your Partner And/Or Yourself
Incorporate sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice by focusing on using it as a means of connection and intimacy with yourself or your partner. Rather than viewing sex as something purely physical or transactional, try to approach it as a way of deepening your emotional and spiritual bond with your body or your partner’s. Explore what it might mean to become “one flesh” as Scripture alludes to.
This might involve trying new sexual practices that emphasize intimacy and emotional connection, such as tantra or sacred sexuality. Take the time to focus on breathing together in sync while getting hot and heavy. Take your time and maintain eye contact with your partner. Or if you’re solo, set yourself up with a mirror and gaze upon your beautiful self while pleasuring your body. You might also try incorporating prayer or meditation into your sexual activities, or spending time in conversation or reflection with your partner before or after sexual activity.
The possibilities are endless, but the point is to practice using your sexuality as a means of connection and intimacy with a partner or yourself and relishing in its many benefits. For one, it can deepen your emotional and spiritual connection with your partner, and can help to cultivate a greater sense of trust and vulnerability in your relationship. It can also lead to greater sexual satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as increased feelings of closeness and intimacy. Lastly, it can help make you more connected with your own body. Love the body you have and take the time to care for your pleasure this Lenten season.
Practice Sexual Mindfulness
Another way to incorporate sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice is to focus on practicing sexual mindfulness. This involves being fully present and engaged during sexual activities, and paying attention to the physical and emotional sensations that arise. Forget about your to-do list, what stressors are coming tomorrow, or what that last email might have meant.
In our fast-paced world, it is easy to rush through sexual experiences without fully engaging with them. However, by practicing sexual mindfulness, you can deepen your connection with your own body and your partner’s body, and cultivate a greater sense of presence and awareness in your sexual experiences. Feel every wave of pleasure from its source to your fingertips, feel how soft your partner’s body feels in your hands, take in the scents your body gives off in the throws of intimacy, and do your best to be present in your body.
This might involve incorporating meditation or breathing exercises into your sexual activities, or focusing on slowing down and savoring the experience rather than rushing through it. By practicing sexual mindfulness, you can deepen your sense of connection with your own body and your partner’s body, and can experience greater levels of pleasure and intimacy. Don’t feel like you have to take it all in at one time. Remember, Lent is 40 days long and you have time to practice.
Engage in Sexual Healing
Another way to incorporate sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice is to focus on engaging in sexual healing. This involves exploring and addressing any unresolved emotional or psychological issues related to sexuality, and working to heal and integrate these aspects of yourself.
Many people carry emotional wounds or traumas related to their sexuality, whether it be from past experiences of abuse, shame, or guilt. I’m guessing if you’re here reading this, you too may have past issues around sex that need healing. These unresolved issues can create a sense of disconnection from one’s own body and can inhibit one’s ability to fully engage in healthy sexual experiences.
Engaging in sexual healing can involve a variety of practices, including professional therapy, counseling, or sharing with trusted friends or family. It can also involve practices such as journaling, meditation, or self-reflection to explore and process any unresolved issues related to sexuality. Maybe this Lenten season you take your first steps in getting connected with a therapist for the first time. Maybe you share your burdens with a trusted friend or join a support group with others who have had similar experiences to you. We were not meant to carry these burdens by ourselves. Jesus instructs us to give him our burdens in order to lighten the load of the heavy burdens some of us carry.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
As I write this, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming, “THIS IS ALL EASIER SAID THAN DONE!” But the Lent season is as good as any time to give it a shot. Take as small of baby steps as needed to move toward a direction of healing. By engaging in sexual healing, you can work to heal past wounds and traumas, and can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. This can also lead to a greater sense of freedom and empowerment in your sexual experiences, and can help you cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with your own sexuality. Take this time to love yourself unconditionally with abundant amounts of grace. You deserve healing.
Embrace Sexual Diversity and Acceptance
It may be time to diversify! To incorporate sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice is to embrace sexual diversity and acceptance. This involves acknowledging and accepting the diversity of human sexuality, including different orientations, gender identities, and sexual expressions.
The church has historically been a place of exclusion and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ individuals or people who don’t fit into a traditional monogamous relationship structure, but this is changing. Many progressive churches are now embracing diversity and inclusion, and are working to create safe and welcoming spaces for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, identity, or relationship structure.
Embracing sexual diversity and acceptance can involve educating yourself on issues related to LGBTQ+ individuals and advocacy, attending events or gatherings that celebrate diversity and inclusion, and actively working to create a more inclusive and accepting community within your own church or religious community. Read books like The Ethical Slut or Come As You Are, listen to podcasts like Risk! or Normalizing Non-Monogamy, watch Netflix shows like How To Build a Sex Room or Sex, Love & Goop to learn from other people’s experiences.
By embracing sexual diversity and acceptance, you can cultivate a greater sense of empathy and compassion towards all individuals, and can work to create a more just and equitable society for all.
Practice Sexual Self-Control
One last way to incorporate sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice is to focus on sexual self-control. I know! This would be my last choice too. But this can take many forms, the basic idea is to refrain from sexual activities that are outside the boundaries of your moral and ethical beliefs. This might include abstaining from sexual activity altogether during Lent, or it could mean committing to a period of celibacy or chastity.
The practice of sexual self-control has been a part of religious practice for centuries. In fact, many religious figures throughout history have practiced celibacy as a means of deepening their spiritual connection with God. While the idea of celibacy may seem daunting, there are many benefits to practicing sexual self-control during Lent.
For one, it can help you develop a deeper sense of self-discipline and self-awareness. It can also help you strengthen your commitment to your moral and ethical values, and can provide a sense of spiritual renewal and rejuvenation. Take a time of celibacy to reflect on the kind of porn you watch. Is there a more ethical path to your porn consumption? Or you might evaluate your emotions and state of mind during your time of celibacy. Does abstinence affect your mental state? Do you lash out in any way?
Don’t practice self-control just to see if you can do it. Take this time to recognize how your mind and body react to abstinence. Ask yourself if you’re okay with the way your celibacy has manifested itself. Then take the time to make any changes in your life, if any, to better yourself moving forward. Remember, if you choose to try self-control, it isn’t forever and is only beneficial if you’re learning something about yourself. Don’t feel like you have to just for the sake of Lent.
Incorporating sexuality into your Lenten spiritual practice can be a powerful way to deepen your spiritual connection, cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness and acceptance, and enhance your relationships with others. By using sexuality as a means of connection and intimacy, practicing sexual mindfulness, engaging in sexual healing, embracing sexual diversity and acceptance, and practicing sexual self-control, you can create a more integrated and fulfilling spiritual practice that encompasses all aspects of your humanity.
Allow this time of Lent to prepare you to let something in you die so that something new can be born. You probably don’t even know what that might look like right now, and that is the exciting part! Use this season of Lent to unearth something in you that needs change. Allow God to show you what needs pruning so that more beauty can grow. Don’t waste your Lent by challenging yourself to simply see if you could go all 40 days without sugar. Learn something from it. Self-reflect so you can dispose of whatever holds you back from loving God, neighbor, or yourself in order to make room for you to be something new come Easter. Because that's the whole point of Easter, isn’t it? Jesus showed us with his life and teachings that new life will always come after death.
Let the lust within you die this season so that love might be reborn!
Let worry die so you might become more present with your partner in your most intimate moments.
Allow trauma to die in order to allow your body, mind, and soul to heal this season in hopes of finding the freedom to give more of yourself to someone you trust.
Let Pornhub die in your browser so you can rub one out knowing you’re supporting ethical practices and equal pay while watching porn.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s spiritual journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it’s important to approach these practices with an open mind and heart, and to be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you explore these new aspects of your spirituality. With patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow, you can create a more holistic and fulfilling Lenten spiritual practice that encompasses all aspects of your being, including your sexuality.
THANK GOD FOR SEX!
-The Dirty Minister