Healthy sexuality. Typically this phrase causes concern with most Christians. Modern science claims that anything goes for sexuality as long as you don't hurt anybody, however clearly the line of that caveat is being stretched and definitely doesn't exist in pornography. A top pornography website actually has a whole division dedicated to healthy sexuality with doctors and psychologists speaking into the ways our sexuality needs to be expressed, i.e. no holds bar.
So let's take this phrase back and have a chat about real, healthy sexuality, with boudaries and informed by marriage. We need a template, a blueprint of truth for operating definitions of love and sex. At the Center, we work with many clients who have encountered sexual brokenness. And to some extent, we all have, me as a therapist included. A freedom from sexual darkness of our past begs to be led to a freedom for healthy sexuality, true masculinity and beautiful femininity. Where to start...
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice" - the Groom (Song 4:9-10)! "My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven...his lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh. His arms are rounded gold, set with jewels" - the Bride (Song 5: 10-14).
The Song is an erotic love poem between lovers. Through the exhilerating, deep language used, it sets aflame one's heart for real, human love (albeit imperfect). This flame has the potential to turn towards God, the ultimate lover and pursuer of the heart. Thus, the integrated approach to the Song is a human love poem which leads us to God's fatherly and bridegroom love for us. Grace informed by nature. God communicates through our human 'stuff' and especially our sexuality. Two parts of the Song that need to be highlighted for healthy sexuality are being single (original solitude) and clear language.
John Paul II calls the time between the creation of Adam and the taking out of one of his ribs to create Eve, a time of differentiation or 'original solitude.' In developmental psychology, we might consider this the stage of adolescence and young adulthood. This is a timeframe for same sex friendships to blossom, which is evident from the Song regarding the Daughters of Jerusalem. They are the bride's friends, cheerleaders of sorts and strong adovcates. They cheer on the couple in their love and rejoice in its blooming. This time of getting to know oneself, loving oneself, being loved by God without the rush of dating, these dynamics create security within a personality, being comfortable in one's own skin. Then, when he is ready and without 'rousing love before it's time' (Song 2:7), the bridegroom speaks of his lover as 'my sister, my bride' (Song 5:1) which is an echo from the friendship of the women. The groom is not marrying his sister, but he treats her as his sister, with respect and honor, as a best friend when they are courting. Being single is hard, but doing it alone is harder. The Song reminds us of becoming a good gift before being able to give that gift away.
Lastly, the Song of Songs does not mince words. The poet's clear language and raw description of body parts is evident. The bride and her companions reveal their song of praise for the great gift of love, "Draw me after you, let us make haste. We will exult and rejoice in you, we will extol your love more than wine" (Song 1:4). The groom blesses his bride by extolling her beauty, "Behold you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful" (Song 4:1). And the bride answers his pursuit by affirming his manhood, "His speech is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable" (Song 5:16). While this language is poetic and real, the poet is no stranger to the struggle within marriage. "Catch us the foxes...that spoil the vineyards" (Song 2:15). A fox is stealthy and snatches when no one is looking. These foxes come in many forms, but whether it's the couple's past or the culture, marriage will have to endure attacks and the couple must be ready. The poet also describes a scene of assault/rape on the woman in chapter 5. The 'watchmen of the walls' were suppose to protect her femininity as she sought her lover, however they 'beat her, wounded her and took away her mantle' (Song 5:7). The poet is not naive to what women have to go through to protect their dignity. Rape is a serious offense and we must keep guard for our daughters and brides.
Our sexuality is part of who we are and reaches to our core. "God Loves Sex," as Dan Allender (2014) puts it. Let's take back this great gift and follow the blueprint, for therein lies freedom, peace and joy.
Michael Ciaccio MS, LPC, SATP