That may seem like a funny thing to say in a world obsessed with sex. However, when an Adult Sunday School Class was asked the question, “What’s a way you have experienced the presence of God?” and I answered “Sex,” it went over like a lead balloon. There was a profound silence. I think the pastor just finally moved on to another question.
Evidently this is not the number one response.
For me growing up in the fifties and being a newly wed in the sixties created a sexual conundrum. It meant coming into marriage with all sorts of taboos drummed into your conscious and unconscious, but suddenly hearing the feminists claiming equal fun for everyone. This led to being rather self-centered about sex. I did finally get the impression that men need the enjoyment of sex to feel good about themselves, but women need to feel good about themselves to enjoy sex.
After my encounter with the reality of God’s love expressed in Jesus, feeling loved became a given, so my enjoyment of sex improved exponentially. I was curious whether this was a usual perk for Christians.
After a women’s ecumenical prayer group one day, our older mentor ended up staying and chatting with me. She was a lovely Baptist woman, grey-haired, probably in her fifties. She was an old fashioned lady in the best sense of the word. She was gentle, soft spoken, kind, and polite. She wore skirts to mid-calf and high necked blouses with lace ruffs and a cameo at her throat. I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but I mentioned that to me a somewhat surprising blessing of becoming a Christian was how much it improved our sexual relationship. Her eyes lit up and she responded with great enthusiasm, “Oh yes! Sometimes I just want to shout, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!”
Though this experience obviously brings an overwhelming sense of gratitude, it is not what I actually mean when I say that I have experienced God through sex. Sex is infinitely varied even in the same relationship. Often it’s just plain fun, other times it’s tender, it’s consoling, it’s ecstatic, stress relieving, lighthearted, joyous, healing, loving, powerful. All gifts from God, no doubt about it, but not what I meant.
My experience of God in sex came about one time, when I made a conscious choice out of love and affection, not duty, guilt, or need, to put my husband’s experience of joy first. Somehow, that focus off myself freed me of my self, of the limits of self, and the experience was not only of oneness with my husband, but oneness with all creation and its creator both. It was a loss of borders that seems impossible to describe effectively. To me it was a powerful experience of God.
It is definitely different than an experience of the presence of Jesus and even different from the experience of God’s love and its mind blowing joy. It’s simply a oneness with everything. A loss of the limits of self.
I am not good at contemplation. But several times, in other ways than the sexual expression of love, I have also experienced that oneness. Once was toward the end of a night of staying awake on a scout camp-out, keeping the fire going and scooting children in their sleeping bags back from the fire when they wiggled too close in their sleep. Just before dawn, there’s a moment of quiet when the night sounds stop and the day ones haven’t started. It’s like the earth holds its breath. As I experienced that moment, it seemed to me that might have been like the earth holding its breath at the moment when Christ was born. Suddenly, I had no borders, I was one with everything. There was an Eileen awareness of everything, but no Eileen. Again, that sense of oneness with all, with God. A pure peace. A silence. No self to protect, so absolutely no fear of anything.
Another time in the silence of fallen snow, on the top of a hill in darkness that seemed to make every star visible, I stood alone, simply listening to the silence and feeling the vastness of the starfilled sky, and once more I lost my self into that vast silence, but gained the world and God.
It would seem that both love and awe can free us from the lonely walls of self.