Monday, November 16, 2009
Teens and Pseques
At church, we just finished a 3 part message series on sexuality (You can listen to the message series here.). The first was for married people, the second for single people and the third for teens. The junior high and high school students stayed in for all three messages, so I was able to listen to them as both the Dad of teenagers and as someone whose tried to deliver this type of message and gotten it was wrong. It was such a complex, touchy topic and Joe nailed it in his message.
As a parent, this is new ground for me. Sure, I've had the talks about where babies come from, but this goes way beyond that, way beyond what I learned as a kid. Nothing against my parents on this - I think they were trying to figure it out just like Cathie and I are doing. My Dad jokes that he grew up on a farm and learned where babies come from when his Dad pointed out a cow and bull in the field. Most of my life, I've looked at sexuality and sex as being the same thing, and I'm learning that the second is a small piece of the first.
The church talks I've typically heard revolve around the same basic points, all true in and of themselves, but they leave some big gaps: They take you through how God created sex, and it's great, but you need to wait otherwise you'll get your heart broken, diseases or pregnant and you need Jesus to help you through the waiting part of sex.
Joe started right from the beginning saying that he wasn't going to spend time dwelling on the consequences of sex in terms of disease and pregnancy - he assumed that the kids had heard this stuff ad nausea in school, which they have. From there, he took a very interesting approach, going with the same theme he had throughout the series. He looked at sexuality as being much bigger than sex.
He looked at sexuality in a broader light, beyond just the act of sex, but as a sacred energy given to us by God in every cell of our being, that drives us towards overcoming our incompleteness. He looked at how TV tells teens that our sexuality should be channeled to bring us towards completeness verses looking at how else sexuality can be harnessed and respect the sacredness and power given to us by God in our sexuality.
During the first message, he talked about the sexuality of Mother Teresa (I know, those concepts don't seem to go together at first), expounding on some of what Ronald Rolheiser (a celibate catholic priest) talks about in The Holy Longing. Mother Teresa took that powerful energy and channeled it into God and the Poor. Joe talked about how the teens in our church have poured this energy into serving the poor through our Downtown outreach and Missions trips. They used their sexuality, this unbridled energy, this eros, to pursue connectedness and to bless others.
He had a very interesting example in the life of Tim Treadwell, the bear researcher. Tim was known for living amongst the bears he studied, in their habitat, without any separation from them. He treated something of great power (the bears) very casually, which you can only do for so long before it blows up on you. For Tim, it resulted in the death of him, his fiancee and the bears.
I think I'm learning more and more about about this energy, and how I choose where to direct it: my job, my family, my friends, the poor, my stuff, my exercise. I want my conversations with my kids in this area to be driven from God's larger concept of sexuality. I think talking to your kids about topics like pornography become a very different conversation at that point.
The Holy Longing The Search for a Christian Spirituality is one of my favorite books, and I've started re-reading it again, and get so much out of it. It's a simple book, but covers some of the deepest topics simply. (Ken Buck would consider this book to be non-source text and likely be angry at it's very existence). This book brings together some concepts around spirituality in terms of sexuality, justice, the church and Jesus in a way that just makes sense and challenges your world view.