The Post-Partum Year, 2021: A New Year Will Not Heal All Pains

Almost through January...and I still feel tense.

As a mental health practitioner, I know that every human psyche subconsciously exhaled a little when they woke up and it was 2021. Welcome to this n-e-w year, you made it through the last one! My friend Leah says her favorite day is the first day of the month because she gets to change her calendar to a new, fresh page of empty squares to fill however she wants. I have felt my excitement for this particular day for a while now. In fact, sometime in October, during the height of my depression from the long-suffering year, my mind began to fantasize about getting to January. Yet, I am almost through the month and I still feel anxious.

Last new year, I could not have conceived what this past year would hold: COVID. Pandemic. Homeschooling. Quarantining. Lockdown. Masks. Hand sanitizer. Fear and Anxiety. No childcare. Online grocery shopping. The election. Protests and racial justice rallies. Family members dying. Siloed death, and thus, siloed grief.

As a mother, I watched my children go from a normal school day to online learning and no recess. As a therapist, last year my clients went from in-person sessions to online teletherapy, adapting to change after change. As a public speaker, I found myself canceling every event and holed up in our mountain cabin. No one could have told me the number of mental gymnastics it would take to make it through the compounded griefs and trauma bonds of 2020. A trauma bond is the misuse of fear or excitement that entangles us to another (Carnes, 2019). The inconsistencies of governing offices attempting to engage our nation as it encountered state lockdowns, racial protests, and accusations of election fraud are all traumatic bonds on a society’s psyche. The amount of time it will take to disentangle ourselves from these lived experiences is unknown. We must become people of resilience, this is the invitation of the past year.

The idea of 2021 has been so helpful for me, as I say things to my kids such as, “it’s only for this year we won’t see your cousins on holidays.” Yet, my body has felt this before, it knows that putting all my hope into the new year feels a lot like post-partum. The female body looks to the delivery of her child when getting herself through pregnancy. If you have never had a child before, you still have experienced postpartum. Postpartum is the time following any dream you have birthed into the world. We all know what it means to hope for something and the reality of it is not what we expected. Everyone can understand that postpartum may affect you long after the dream is born.

“2021 was a hope that I looked to often throughout 2020,
but I am well aware there will be a postpartum period.”

What could postpartum symptoms of 2020 look like:

Thoughts that 2021 will give immediate relief of the impacts in 2020
Overdrive to make up for last year losses
Fear, Ambivalence, or Savior-like fantasies of the COVID vaccine
Uncertainty about future pandemics
Inability to navigate the need to continue hope and waiting to be “back to normal”
Inability to concentrate or make decisions about how to move forward with the future
Excessive irritability, anger, worry, or agitation
Post-traumatic effects of global trauma bonding

Each year it takes me about a month to stop signing my checks with the previous year. This year I started practicing in November, writing the year 2021. I imagine it will be a similar undoing for our psychological health as well. We all have different ways of untangling ourselves from old patterns. Yet, today I am struck wondering how long it will take for the United States to unwind from last year?

My resolution this year is to unwind the impacts of last year. As humans who have been impacted by last year’s pandemic, we must begin by listening to stories of essential workers from the past year. What was exposed during seasons of stress and hardship? Due to quarantine, I spent a lot of time with mental health clients working through stress from patriarchy, rage, and grief from senseless deaths, marital discord, societal quarantining, and fear of isolation. All of these exposures are invitations for everyone to be curious about the potential postpartum we may feel in 2021. We know that post-trauma and post-partum do not heal well without patient and good care. So, may we as the United States of America, be curious and gentle with the post-partum we could feel as we come into 2021.

Our country has been invited into maturation and building resilience as a people group.

 

Dr. Christy Bauman, PhD, MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of her works: Theology of the Womb, Womaneering Perpetual Calendar, A Brave Lament, and the award-winning Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, part-time professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality and theology. Christy’s work can be found at christybauman.com 


Womaneering the New Year: Engage Your Internal Critic

Phew! We made it to the end of the year.

As a mental health practitioner, I know that every human psyche subconsciously exhaled a little when they woke up this morning. New Year’s Day is here...welcome to this n-e-w year! My friend Leah says her favorite day is the first day of the month because she gets to change her calendar to a fresh page of empty squares to fill however she wants. I have felt my excitement for this particular day for a while now. In fact, sometime in October, during the height of my depression from the long-suffering year, my mind began to fantasize about this first day of the new year. It’s here now. Thank you, Jesus, in Heaven!

Last new year, I could not have conceived what this past year would hold: COVID. Pandemic. Homeschooling. Quarantining. Lockdown. Masks. Hand sanitizer. Fear and Anxiety. No childcare. Online grocery shopping. The election. Protests and racial justice rallies. Family members dying. Siloed death, and thus, siloed grief.

The amount of time it will take to disentangle ourselves from these lived experiences is unknown. Each year it takes me about a month to stop signing my checks with the previous year. This year I started practicing in November, writing the year 2021. I imagine it will be a similar undoing for our psychological health as well. We all have different ways of extricating ourselves from old patterns, yet today I am struck wondering how long it will take for the United States to recover from last year?

My resolution this year is to unwind the impact of last year. I must begin by listening to my stories from the past year. What was exposed in me during seasons of stress and hardship? Due to quarantine, I spent a lot of time in my house with my family. This magnified so many issues: my self-esteem and body image, marital discord, and fear of isolation. These exposures invite me to be curious about my own story.

Let’s choose one, self-esteem and body image.

As much as I have not wanted to make the common weight-loss resolutions, I must admit that I have for the last five years. It is hard to skirt my internal critic when I see my physical reflection. She waits for me in the hall or bathroom mirror, and she seemingly has endless time to find me in street shop glass windows. I have come to find that my internal critic sounds a lot like my mother. More so, my inner voice criticizes particularly what my mother critiques in herself. My sin is that I have come to align with this internal critic.

It is only through achieving a Ph.D. in counseling skills that I have come to acknowledge and engage my internal critic. Initially, I blamed my mom until I realized it was no longer her voice commenting on my figure; it was my own. It is now my work to become a better “mother” to myself.

Pull quote: Mothering your internal critic is the act of speaking to your most vulnerable parts with the wisdom of sage femme.

Sage femme is the wise woman, the one who is more mature and enlightened because she is your future self. My internal critic can invite the insecure parts of me to be mothered by the sage-femme. When I come to my reflection, or the reflection of this last year and how I survived it, I want to invite my internal, wise mother-voice to speak kindness and love over the critique.

The art of re-mothering is made up of tools that can tend to bleeding wounds, rebuild broken dreams, and speak words of hope. Hannah Gadsby writes, “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

Within my spiritual circles, a new year is also a time of reflection and planning, where one can choose a word to intentionally carry through the next 365 days. My word for 2021 is “womaneering.” I made up the word over a decade ago. Womaneering is the art of pioneering womanhood. I no longer want to use societal lenses to measure myself against. Amid the heartache, patriarchy, chaos, and ache of last year, I want to free myself to live into my most authentic self.

Last year reminded me that life is not certain or promised. So, good woman, as you step into this new year, ask the wise woman to speak to the vulnerable parts still reeling from a frightening and tumultuous year. Breathe deep and bless yourself, for you made it. Release yourself to freely womaneer into the most honest you.


The Woman in White: How Shame & Purity Culture Impacted My Sexuality

This is the dress​.

I breathed the words barely above a whisper, just loud enough for my mom and best friend to hear. As I stood in front of the bridal mirror mesmerized by my reflection, I heard my mom break the awe of the moment with a quick clarifying question: “But we can get this dress in white, right?”

Although the ivory tone of the chiffon looked more expensive to me, I immediately knew why she was asking. It was important for my mother to have her daughter walk down the aisle in white to represent my chastity. Society has long symbolized the purity of the bride with a white dress. In Jewish custom, it is the father of the betrothed who gives an oath of his daughter’s virginity, but in Western Christianity, it would be my charismatic Catholic mother who would swear to my virginity with the whitest fabric she could afford.

White. What does a woman in white represent? White has historically been associated with freedom, innocence, omnipotence, and most commonly, purity. Long before the purity movement in Christianity, there was a demand for chastity; an expectation of sexual innocence placed on women that were not expected of men.

Women have come to bear the weight of wearing white.

Sexism and patriarchy have wielded shame and stigma, demanding a woman’s worth be tied to her virginity. These two evil agents of destruction have seeped into the church and ravaged its women. Anyone who allowed herself to be shamed into remaining pure until marriage was promised a happy, healthy sex life, yet psychological research shows us that a significant percentage of marriages from the purity movement is now in couple’s therapy, seeking help navigating their sexual health.
Sexual shame is the culprit.

Male Christians typically grow up learning about sex through hidden pornography use while female Christians squelch their sexuality, ascribing holiness to a lack of sexual desire. When I asked 400 of my Christian female clients how often they orgasm in heterosexual relationships, they said 10-15% of the time; and when I asked how often their male partners orgasm, the answer was 95-100% of the time.

Dr. Noel Clark defines sexual shame as internalized feelings of disgust and humiliation towards one’s own body and identity as a sexual being. For church-going women, these issues have often been narrated through patriarchal theologies, resulting in a skewed understanding of body image and sexuality. How have we allowed our bodies and our spiritual health to be defined by men? How has shame stolen our healthy, God-intended sexual arousal? Women who identify as lesbian or queer may receive a potential double dose of shame from the pulpit—first, due to their sexual orientation, and secondly, due to body image and general issues related to sexual activity.

On my wedding day, I was the only person wearing white. I felt the need for the color of my dress to symbolize the bride of Christ. My wedding day was everything I could have dreamt of, short of the cold temperature, but when we cut the cake and someone went to prepare the getaway car, I began to panic. I was crying with my bridesmaids as I changed into my exit dress. My tears were hot as I confessed my fear that losing my virginity might make me less holy in the eyes of God and others.
There is a sexual state that sexual shame from the pulpit also encourages, but it is less often spoken: asexuality, a lack of sexual attraction. It is highly common for me to hear complaints from my male clients of a significant decline in sex after the wedding night. I have heard partner after partner says, “My wife was all over me when we were dating, and now she never wants to have sex.”

That was my story too. The safety of dating meant I could do everything but have sex, and therefore, I felt safe to explore my arousal because I knew we would never consummate it until the wedding night. On the wedding night, my sexuality shifted. It has taken eleven years of marriage and therapy for me to approach sex differently, with uninterrupted eye contact with my partner and curiosity towards my own body and pleasure rather than focusing solely on my partner’s arousal.

Every day in my counseling practice, I witness clients attempting to untangle their sexual shame. Often shame has a powerful hold on the psyche, while a trauma can lessen in the brain, shame entwines itself around one’s self-esteem. Our God-given arousal cycle does not flourish in places of shame. Whenever we enter a covenant I believe God dresses us all in white, shameless, and holy.

 

 

Dr. Christy Bauman, Ph.D., MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers story-work consulting. She is the author and producer of her works: Theology of the Womb, Womaneering Perpetual Calendar, A Brave Lament, and the award-winning Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, part-time professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy’s work can be found at christybauman.com 

 


Ash Wednesday Liturgy Guide: An Invitation to Inhale

Ash Wednesday Liturgy: Guide to Inhale

I am anxious as soon as I wake up. I will be late to work if I stop to get ashes this morning. I should have planned better but the Mardi Gras celebration the day before went late and dropping off kids to childcare before work leaves little time to get to an Ash Wednesday mass. I can see the bar-b-que pit on the back porch and I am tempted. Surely, I can NOT use ashes from there to mark my forehead. Well, there is only one person who knows if that is sacrilegious or not...I call Mema. My devoutly, Catholic grandmother picks up the phone and chuckles at my question. I love the playfulness she has with Jesus.

“I think Jesus cares about the fact that you want to mark this day with Him. Jesus cares that you recognize His suffering and you want to be with Him in it.”

There is so much truth in her answer that I immediately open the sliding glass door and pull off the grate on the grill. The feel of the ash is distinct, the granules bring me face to face with loss. The granules of ash are the remnants of something now burned up. Tears well up thinking of Christ facing His own journey toward death. I let the tears drip into my ash-filled palm. I smear my grief with the loss and scrape the ash mixture in the sign of the cross on my forehead. I whisper the words.

“I want to know You in Your suffering, my Lord.”

And as soon as the moment became holy, it turned to reality. The 6-minute DIY liturgy was interrupted by time. I packed my kids in the car and began the normal, Wednesday routine. Throughout the day, after forgetting there were ashes on my head, I would rub some accidentally on my fingers, or see my reflection in the rearview mirror and I would smile for a moment recalling the early morning bbq service I had with Jesus.

May we be wild in our desire to connect with our Savior.

 

Ash Wednesday - The First Day of Lent

Ash Wednesday is the first day marking the journey Christ took towards death. Lent is an invitation for Christians to journey alongside with repentance and mourning for sins. Although it is not directly named in the Bible, there are verses in Daniel that connect fasting to ashes and the act of Lenten practices. Lent is an Old English word meaning lengthen. This lengthening is observed in 40 days which mimics Christ’s withdrawal for 40 days in the desert where He was tempted. For the Christian attempting to replicate this act of sacrifice is normally done through fasting from both foods or festivities. Religious, traditional denominations take Lent more strictly requiring believers to observe the holiday, such as Ramadan or another religious fasting.

As a young Cajun, Catholic little girl from Southern Louisiana, I was very used to not eating meat on Fridays during Lent and replacing our meals with fish or crawfish, which was a favorite of mine. We fished a lot growing up, it was my favorite time for hunting, because we used poles and nets instead of guns. I loved the thrill of catching a fish or bringing up a crawfish net trap full of crawfish. Guns and bullets were somehow put away and repentance was expected. I remember how much I enjoyed the men in my life during Lent, I would fish with my daddy early on Sunday mornings. The conversations I had in fishing boats have always been so much better to me than the cold, silent hours in the duck blinds.

Lent required me to turn toward a sacrifice for reflection, it asked me to wait. In the waiting, I could wonder what it was like for Christ in the desert, in the forty days of preparing. What did He think about when He was hungry? I have not known hunger but in the discipline of fasting, I reflect on those in this world who know hunger and even starvation. Sacrifice leads us to the reflection of penance. Christ wants us to journey with Him so that we might know deeply in our hearts how to live into repentance and sacrifice. For me, being hungry demands me to evaluate how I live in a world where hunger is a reality. And Christ then asks me, are you willing to die for your sin? And I am led to ask myself, am I willing to live a life feeding the poor and hungry? What is Lent unless it moves us to action? What is the point of repenting if we aren’t moved to change, so much so, we go to our death living differently? Christ reflected on His love for God’s people, and He taught His body to long for a redeemed world. Forty days of fasting led Christ to desire redemption for this world so much that He could make it through the crucifixion to get to the resurrection.

What is Lent inviting you into?

What is it in your world that needs your crucifixion to know resurrection?

 

Ash Wednesday Marking Guide

⟴ Create a room in your home or church that will be available for individuals to stop by during the morning hours (7-9am) and the evening (5-7pm) of Ash Wednesday

⟴ Invite those who attended the Mardi Gras celebration the evening before to join. All are welcome.

⟴ Offer carafes of tea and coffee.

⟴ Create dimly lit areas with 3 stations, each station can include: candles, scraps of paper, writing utensils, cut out prayers, and poems at different stations.

⟴ Stations of Reflection, Repentance, and Resolve
That station of reflection should be observed in silence. It is a table with multiple strips of papers with different reflections of coming into the beginning of Lent and aligning with the preparation of the heart into suffering.
The station of repentance is about reflection that brings us to remorse and writing down what we confess and repent of. These papers are to be carried to the following station of resolve.
The station of resolve is a place to burn the papers we have written our sins on. (The ash from these papers may be cooled, collected, and used for our ashes on our heads. It is time to set our hearts toward Christ and what he is being asked to walk into. We align ourselves with Him and commit to coming alongside His journey to the cross.

⟴ At the door when each individual is leaving, one person is assigned to offer ashes, often it is tradition to burn the dried palm leaves used at the Palm Sunday service. These make for the ashes to put the sign of the cross on each head.

⟴ Recite your own chosen words or something in this vein of thought:

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Lord, we want to know You in Your suffering,
Prepare our hearts by the confession of (name)’s sins.
As, (name), wants to walk closer with You.
Amen.


Mardi Gras Marking Liturgy

 

Postponing Celebration: When Mardi Gras is Cancelled

In the culture I grew up in if it was tradition, you had to do it, you had to throw the party, facilitate the event...but this year, I have to break that tradition. I know that today is Mardi Gras, but in my heart, Ash Wednesday has come a day early and my heart is achy. So, I have postponed Mardi Gras this year much like all that has been postponed with the pandemic. So often our culture has it backward, we try to distract ourselves from our pain, or at least I do. Yet grief must be greeted and felt like our other emotions. So whatever celebration you are postponing or altering, may you have the strength to post-pone well. To the level in which we engage grief is the level, we can engage in celebration.

To the level we grieve is the to level we will celebrate.

As much as my history and tradition tell me to celebrate today, possibly what it was actually teaching me is that on the days we are grieving, may we grieve authentically and on the days we are celebrating, may we live honorably in hope and laughter. However you find yourself, rest in God’s love that longs for your heart to be known, whether in a season of grief or a season of celebration.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone, I share this post as a tribute to Mardi Gras of old and with curiosity to learn how to build resilience and hold the tension of both life and death. While my celebrations will be postponed, for those whose hearts are celebrating today, let the good times roll….

Mardi Gras Mambo

I look up immediately when I hear the sirens coming up Main Street, it is finally time for the Mardi Gras parade to begin. I got up early that morning with my sister and brother, we put our lawn chairs in front of my dad’s bank before heading to school. During class, I would daydream about the afternoon scene, candy, shiny colorful coins dancing through the air from the parade floats. When the last bell rang, I didn’t even go home to change out of my uniform. I headed straight to my wooden slatted folding chair and sat down and waited for this very moment. As common as parades are in South Louisiana, I know someone walking in this parade and my 2nd grade hopes will be ready for this family connection to pay off. My grandfather will be in the group of men dressed up in traditional Cajun culture Mardi Gras clown-like garb. The tassels from his high cone shaped hat and the huge gold beads around his neck almost make him almost unrecognizable in a group of 35 men in similar outfits. I strain my eyes hard to make sure it is him before I yell, “Papere! Papere! I am here!”. He doesn’t see me at first but he is looking and as he gets closer, I continue to scream, but this time in French, “Laissez les bon temps roulez, Papere!” It is our secret code to speak in French when we are in public. He is reaching into his pockets, his fingers emerge slowly and painfully stretching over the handful of beads and doubloons, and I know he sees me. He steps outside of the parade form and leans down filling my bag with these treasures. Then he does what I will wait for almost full parades to acquire, he takes off a brilliant and massively prized Mardi Gras bead from his neck, and places it around mine. The elaborate and shining purple, green, and gold beads that make up this necklace are exquisite to my 8-year-old eyes. I can hear him yell over the crowd before he turns back into the parade line, “Happy Mardi Gras, che’, laissez les bon temps roulez!” I look down at the small mountain of booties in my hands, I don’t even try for the beads and candy flying in the air from the floats. I have gotten all that I could have hoped for. 

Growing up in a Catholic, Cajun culture, I was always taught, when you fear what’s ahead, you celebrate harder. In this poor, rural town my childhood was filled with parades and celebrations. We celebrate everything: feast days, holidays, going to the grocery store, a good grade, a great alligator, or squirrel hunt. We also go to Mass for all of these things too. So, in my upbringing, God is invited to every event and you go and thank God for every event. It did not seem foreign to me that massive celebrations were expected to be had the day before and the day after Lent began and ended. Mardi Gras is an act of debauchery for many but for me, it translated more like stocking up for a shut-in. Such as taking in a deep breath before diving under the water and swimming as far as you could with that one breath. This was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the day one should breathe in deep all the goodness so that it could be savored and rationed to make it through the days of Lent and giving up.  

Mardi Gras. Shrove Day. Fat Tuesday. 

Laissez les bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. 

This is a common phrase thrown around celebrations in Southern Louisiana. Mardi Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday, is a tradition dating back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of fertility and spring, including the rambunctious Roman festivals. When Christianity merged with Roman culture, religious leaders combined this local tradition with faith. As a prelude to Ash Wednesday, which marked Lent’s 40 days of fasting and penance, Fat Tuesday became a carnival day of excess and debauchery. 

The mixing of pagan and religious calendar events was more common than choosing to abolish one of the traditional events. As a researcher in well-being and marking, it is very important to take note of this historical reckoning, the merging of the earth and the spirit. Mardi Gras became one of these events for me, but with most traditions, we must add intention and individuality to our marking events. How do you merge your every day with the earthly and spiritual seasons? This is an invitation to bring intention to your season of tilting toward the sun, moving from wintering into the vernal equinox. In the life/death/life cycle we continue to ask our bodies, spirits, and minds to engage in the ever-rotating seasons. The vernal season takes a long time to break through the ground, the death cycle is hard to shake off. For something to live, something must die. We have marked the death of the winter and it is time to break off the harrowed ground so that we can plant seeds. Giving us something for Lent is like planting seeds inside of yourself. It is the intentional seeds we plan hoping to see something blossom from it in the Spring. 

May you mark this season of Lent well, and may it begin with a day of excess and celebration. 

 

   ༒

Mardi Gras Marking Guide 

 

Gather on the weekend prior to Lent or if possible the Tuesday in February on the eve of Ash Wednesday.  

 

⟴ Invite those joining to bring costume jewelry, musical instruments, and noisemakers that will be used to represent the loud celebration of life that needs to be “shouted” before entering Lent and a season of being without.

⟴ Gathering your beads, music makers, Bluetooth speakers the crowd parades down the street offering “happy Mardi Gras” to anyone around inviting all bystanders to join in the parade. A great song to use is the “Mardi Gras Mambo” as a parade song. The parade ends back where it began and pastries and drinks are shared. 

 

⟴ Bring pastries decorated in green, purple, and yellow,

or gold, if you can bake or buy a king cake it is fitting for the celebration. The cake or pastries should have a little plastic baby hidden in the cake as tradition says the person who receives the baby will be in charge of buying the cake the following year. (We hold this tradition very loosely). Bring coffee or other intentional beverages. 

 

⟴ If you want to continue the celebration, invite close friends to stay after for a meal, traditionally to the Acadian French culture this would be gumbo, sweet potatoes, and boiled eggs. If you don’t know how to make this meal, no problem, choose a meal that incorporates a little bit of your own personal culture. 

 

⟴ As the meal is being shared and the king cake is being eaten, individuals are invited to share what they are giving up for Lent and why. Some ideas for good family Lent ideas are:

  • Fasting from social media.
  • A family might withhold watching family movies at night and play family board games during Lent season. 
  • Communities might choose to do something up together as a community, such as doing a cleanup project together. 
  • A group of friends might give up buying coffee in shops and put the money to a community garden at the church or in someone’s backyard. 
  • Families might choose to give a kind word or blessing to someone each day of the Lent season. 

 

⟴ Close the sharing time with a toast to the brave individuals who participated in today as a way to mark HOPE to sustain us through a season of deprivation. 

 

 

 

                Let us enjoy now so that we can remember our full bellies and gleaming smiles,

for tomorrow invites us into a season of being without. 

Lord, we thank you both for the plenty. 

Happy Mardi Gras to each of you. 


Sex as Prayer

Amen, and let it be.

This is often how I end my prayers. And sometimes, after the work of connecting with my husband and engaging in sex, how I end my orgasm. Amen, and let it be.

Honestly, I would give up sex in a millisecond if it could heal and stop all the sexual harm this world has encountered. As a trauma and abuse counselor, my job is to dissect stories of sexual harm and abuse. I spend my hours at work with a figurative scalpel and suture kit as I extract stories of sexual hurt and objectification. Stories of sexual abuse and objectification have cost my sympathetic system years of damage. If there was a way I could give up sex to have all that harm undone, I would. Yet, God created sex knowing it would also cause so much harm. This baffles my mind and also begs me to consider what God intended sex to accomplish for good. If God made sex, I deduce that it has to have a stronger superpower than what evil has used it for. So what was God’s intention for sex? Procreation is the common answer. But procreation must be teased out, those who are for creating. The power of what we can create together with another being in sex is absolutely mind-blowing. My husband and I set an intention when we have sex. For whose sake are we engaging in this act? Sometimes we literally say, we consecrate this time of sexual connection to combat evil in this world. If our part of our glory occurs when we engage in a covenant with another, with integrity and vulnerability, and we receive pleasure - well then let the sexual creations come! Let us offer our scared and wounded bodies to the other in an act of faith that God will show up and bless each other with pleasure and a taste of heaven.

Growing up in the church, no one told me very much about how to navigate sex as a Christian woman. Truthfully, I did as I was taught and stayed a virgin until marriage, praying that would secure a healthy sexual lifetime for me and my husband. I wish it had been that easy. Why didn’t anyone explain that sex is a powerful tool in the kingdom of God? So powerful that evil has used it to harm countless amounts of people. Shouldn’t that mean God intended it for something extremely powerful?

Doctors, therapists, parents, teachers, and pastors have trouble openly talking and teaching about sex. Sex is a powerful and difficult subject to explore through the eyes of God. Most churches have little education on who is equipped to navigate the conversations of sexuality and God, other than mandating abstinence. God’s design for sex is obviously intentional and powerful, and I believe God has given us power through the holiness involved in the act of sex and pleasure. My professor and mentor for many years, Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, is a Christian Certified Sex Therapist who trains Christian therapists on how to counsel clients around healthy sexuality. She teaches about the history and practices of the Law of Onah, laws directed mainly to men which command the man to give his wife pleasure during sexual acts, not to just think of himself. Research records these laws from the Torah, specifically outlining a sexual principle that protects women as a direct rule:

“Sexual relations should only be experienced in a time of joy.  Sex for selfish personal satisfaction, without regard for the partner's pleasure, is wrong and evil.  A man may never force his wife to have sex.  A couple may not have sexual relations while drunk or quarreling.  Sex may never be used as a weapon against a spouse, either by depriving the spouse of sex or by compelling it. It is a serious offense to use sex (or lack thereof) to punish or manipulate a spouse. Sex is the woman's right, not the man's. Although sex is the woman's right, she does not have absolute discretion to withhold it from her husband.” (Mamre, 2012, p. Kosher Sex)

These laws invite us to begin the exploration of God’s design for sex as it relates to pleasure and spirituality. It was during my first seminary class discussion that my professor mentioned that the female clitoris is the size of a pencil eraser head, but has more nerve endings than the head of the male penis. I was shocked; no one had ever told me that. She posed the question, “Why would God give women a clitoris which only has the physiological function to give pleasure?” I researched the function of the clitoris, finding it described as an extremely sensitive organ made up of erectile tissue which has thousands of nerve endings, with its central function being to produce sensations of sexual pleasure. I was stunned to confirm that the clitoris, in fact, has no function in reproduction and has 8,000 nerve endings, which is double to amount of the nerve endings on the penis. Who knew seminary could be so helpful? This information has been a stunning revelation for thousands of students and clients that I work with. We are under-educated as a Christian population about God’s design of the female body, especially concerning sexuality. How can we expect to build a healthy theology around God’s plan for sexuality if we don’t study His design of our sexual organs?

Objectification of the female body brings death. If a woman’s reproductive, life-creating body parts which are created in God’s image are objectified, it prevents her body from being engaged with the way God intended. Rob Bell describes Christian sexuality as a dance between being “angel”, a spirit without a body, or “animal”, a body that lives by basic instinct. Bell writes about how we, as believers, must live as a human, neither angel nor animal, but somewhere in between:

“Angels were here before us. Animals were here before us. When we act like angels or animals, we’re acting like beings who were created before us. We’re going backwards in creation. We’re going the wrong way…our actions, then, aren’t isolated. Nothing involving sex exists independent of and disconnected from everything around it. How we act determines the kind of world we’re creating. And with every action, we’re continuing the ongoing creation of the world. The question is, what kind of world are we creating? How we live matters because God made us human. Which means we aren’t angels. And we aren’t animals.” (Bell, R. 2007, p.63-64)

The question he asks is applicable to every person, at every juncture of life, what kind of world are we creating? In the context of our sexuality, we must ask ourselves this question. Do we see sexuality as something to fear, or have we trusted God-created sexuality as a powerful tool for creating? How do we use our sexuality for the glory of God? How do we use our bodies for creating? The secular culture leads us to believe that we are animals (i.e. over-sexualized) and often the church leads us to believe we are angels (i.e. asexual). In particular, the woman’s body through pregnancy demands us to see that sex is designed to create life. What kind of a world are you creating, one of objectification or true intimacy? Our sex life is a powerful prayer telling the story of who we believe God is and who we believe God created us to be.

What kind of world are we creating as Christians? I think the answer is displayed in our sex life.

 

Dr. Christy Bauman, PhD, MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers story-work consulting. She is the author and producer of her works: Theology of the Womb, Womaneering Perpetual Calendar, A Brave Lament, and the award-winning Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, part-time professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality and theology. Christy’s work can be found at christybauman.com