Monday, July 31, 2017

Sex greed

I learned what sex was when I was in fifth grade. I remember our teacher telling us that, if we were uncomfortable, we were allowed to put our heads down on our desks and she would know not to call on us for questions. Practically no one in my class wanted to learn about sex, with only a handful of exceptions.

I have a memory of surveying the classroom from my desk during one of our Family Life lessons. With the exceptions of myself and another girl in the class, every student's head was face down on his or her desk. Our teacher spoke briefly about her experience as a married woman in love with her husband, and while I don't recall her mentioning any details of their actual sex life, I remember her looking wistfully upward with her hands crossed over her bosom as she sighed, and noted that "When you're happily married and in love, sex is incredible."

I can't honestly say that sex was ever sold to me as something shameful. My parents never spoke about sex in a negative light and the world we find ourselves in is particularly fond of sexualizing most anything. In fifth grade, I was excited to learn about sex. I wanted to understand the mechanics and the excitement and whatever it was about it that made people so happy. And happiness is key here. Growing up, I learned from my environment that sex is a good thing which makes people happy. Naturally, I wanted in on this. I wanted the freedom to be as happy as possible.

At twenty-five years old and engaged to be married this coming spring, I have not had sex since I was a teenager, meaning my memories of sex are exciting but also kind of weird. Even though my parents were never vocally down on sex, I am still human and I still didn't want them to know I was having sex. So the only sex life I've ever had was mostly one of quiet, awkward fumbling when it was convenient and when it was least likely, but still entirely possible, that someone would chance upon us. It was one of sore necks from cramped cars and sticky bodies from somehow sitting on a full fountain soda. Life was weird. Sex was weird. And even though sex was something my friends and I openly discussed and patted one another's backs about, it was never something freeing or mystifying. It's hard to feel free and lost in the moment when you're constantly hiding and looking over your shoulder.

In my mid-twenties, my friends and I still talk about sex, but mostly their own, though occasionally my lack of. My friends are married, or if they're not married they're shacking up, or if they're neither they're dating and having sleepovers, or hitting the bars and going into work with the same outfit and makeup they had on the night before. In the world of adulthood, sex is probably still weird, but it's also something expected, encouraged, and celebrated. And then, of course, there's me.

I work, I do homework, I occasionally throw back a few beers or a bottle of wine, I watch Netflix, and I sleep. I go home to a cat and a roommate that I love very much, but in spite of them, and in spite of spending 7 out of 7 nights a week with someone I care about be they friends or family or my fiancé, I go to bed alone. Having never actually *slept* with someone after fooling around, it was strange when it hit me how lonely I feel when I'm in my bed. And from there, I presume, sprouted the jealousy.

I'm totally jealous of my friends because they have active sex lives. Like, super jealous. I'm jealous of my married friends. I'm jealous of my unmarried friends. I'm jealous because they have something I had once and don't have anymore. I'm jealous because they have something I never had: the freedom to have sex without thinking about anything else, the freedom to be as happy as sex can make us. Sometimes when I think about it, I'm not just jealous -- I'm angry.

But I'm not angry with them. I was, once, angry with two of my friends who are married, because I'm an idiot and they were enjoying their sex life after waiting for one another their entire unmarried lives (jealousy is a hell of a drug), but I'm not angry with them anymore. I'm not angry at my friends because they have sex. I'm not angry at my friends because they have sex outside of marriage. I'm not angry at my friends because of the kind of sex they have, or the frequency at which they have it. Per usual, I'm angry at God.

I'm angry at God because I feel that he is withholding something from me, something that I am owed, that he is not withholding from everyone else. I'm angry that God wants me to not have sex, but doesn't care what anyone else does. Of course that isn't true, but when I'm in my feelings reason doesn't necessarily come naturally. I have this unconscious, underlying feeling that sex is something I should get, that everyone else is getting, and that's...bad. That's a very bad thing to feel. It isn't a conscious feeling. It's far too corrosive, I think, to have been a conscious thought. I don't sit up at night thinking to myself, "God is so mean. I deserve to have sex when I want, how I want." In fact, I'm not even sure how long this silent, hidden feeling has lurked around my heart. I only just noticed it yesterday.

I thank God that he brought this to my attention before I'm married rather than after, and I'm grateful to be at a more stable place emotionally than I was within the years directly following my (fiancĂ©'s) commitment to chastity. My hope is that I will be able to grow and learn from this discovery, rather than letting these feelings fester and rot in my heart. Especially since (I am not that naive) marriage comes with its own share of awkward and fumbly sexual encounters, not to mention curious children wandering in on all things good and holy at the least convenient times. This isn't something that will get better because of marriage. It's something that will get worse, if left unhindered.

So, I'll be reaching out to my counselor and to my spiritual director, in addition to the Blessed Mother and her most chaste spouse. I ask for your prayers, even if it is only a Hail Mary.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jesus DID say it would be easy.

I know it's a thing to repeat ad nauseam that "Jesus never said it would be easy," but for the sake of all the souls of all my friends who have left the faith in the last year exhausted with tired cliches and platitudes and scandalized by these things coupled with a fervent defense of Donald Trump on behalf of the common American Christian, I just have to assert, very firmly, that Jesus most definitely did say that it would be easy.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus absolutely said that following him would be easy. He said that in him, we would find rest. He said that the burden he would impose would be merely light, not heavy.

actual photo of me as a christian

Yes, he told us to take up our crosses. Yes, he assured us that we would suffer for his name. Yes, he insisted that only those who persevered to the end would be saved. He said all these and more. He never said it would be easy to follow him.

Except he did.

What are we to make of this? I honestly don't know. I just don't. I'm sorry, I can't help you with that one. I don't know everything. I don't need to pretend to know everything. And I don't need the constant mantra of tired cliches and platitudes clouding my walk with Christ. Perhaps we lack what made Christ's cross bearable: "the joy set before him." Or perhaps we lack the virtue of hope, or even true charity, in our hearts and in our minds. But shouldn't grasping those things be easy? Didn't Jesus say this would all be easy?

It isn't easy to be chaste. It isn't easy to believe half, if not more, of the people we love are living in mortal sin. It's hard to be anti-abortion. It's hard to believe marriage was ordained by God to be between one man and one woman. It's hard to believe souls go to hell. It's hard. It's hard to give up our pride and our flesh and our desires and our temptations and our friendships and our hearts and our lives. It's hard.

And he said it would be easy.

I don't have any Joel Osteen style sermon to offer. I thoroughly do not believe that being a Christian is easy. I believe that Catholicism is true. I believe that Christ died for sinners and rose to give us new life. I believe that to be united to Christ is to be united to him in his death. This doesn't feel easy. I'm tempted to offer yet another mindless teaspoon of empty comfort, something along the lines of "feeling easy and being easy are two different things," but that isn't true, is it? To be easy, something has to feel easy. And Christianity isn't easy.

But he said it would be easy.

I don't know. I have no other choice but to believe in the words of Jesus Christ. After all, to quote my patron, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." He alone. I love him. I trust him. But it's not easy.

"You have faith in God. Have faith also in me," he echoes through the tender pages of the blessed book of John. Okay. We will. But you said it would be easy. And it isn't. And people are leaving you for it. So what are you going to do about it?