Posted: April 5, 2011 in people
Tags: , , , ,

Two weeks before he was to be married,  the student chaplain at the university where my daughter goes to school  told the girl he was about to marry that he was gay.

And so, ended, the dream, they had together; they dropped  the wedding plans, the marriage and then shortly afterwards, the young man resigned from his leadership role at the school. He graduates from college this spring — in pain. And he’s not the only one.

My wife and I, talking over coffee this morning, wondered, about the conversations, behind the scenes, between the couple, with the parents,with friends and with the school leaders —  painful, excruciating, gut wrenching. The words said to this young man will be remembered by him, for life. And some of the words will have to be recovered from.

Sexual identity is no small issues; our reactions to it are so powerful and so life changing. I really suffer for this young man, and his fiancée and their parents and friends and the school’s students and leaders. This is hard, and I can see that the pain of it has not be adequately acknowledged by the school, by those involed and  by the students. But it is there, and it will not just go away. There will be a painful, ongoing conversation, and it will last much longer than some people  want it to.

I know pain.  So do so many people. A girl told me a while back that she was being pressured by an older guy to have sex with him, even though he is married. This isn’t new for her. Sex has been a huge factor in shaping the last ten years of her life.  She’s pained by it and marked by it. What to do? I have told her again and again, “God loves you.”  He does.

As my wife and I talked this morning, on the TV news, operating background to our dialogue, their was a blub about college guys voting on girls, “hot or not.” My wife remarked, “So, is that considered fun or  is it harassment?” The conversation about that and all things sexual  is being had, at the most public level, but much of it will be a report and a few people’s opinions not the much needed exposé of the pain, within the story. The news doesn’t often deal with the pain of men and women who are or who feel or who are made to feel unattactive. Not many people publically talk about the massive, universal insecurity young people have over “how I look,” or with the brutal question some young people pose to themselves, “Am I hot enough to be loved?”  That is not even a healthy question, but it is out there, and we all know it, but we won’t often hear it put that straight.

Too often, when it comes to sexual issues, we don’t have the conversation that is within the conversation, that really matters. Christians, for instance, are known to talk a lot about sexual morality, and of course, morality is very real, and good, and Biblical morality is from God and very important,  but the converstation about what is right must be combined with talk about what has already gone wrong.  Young people need to be able to talk to older people about what is currently happening. They need to talk about  birth control, about STD’s, about sex and marriage and about homosexuality. They are talking about these things with their friends in their dorm rooms but not as much with their parents or grandparents. Why? Sometimes the older people simply will not have this conversation. They may not even know how. But young people still need to talk, to someone who is open and wise and  who has lived for a while and failed and learned to be gentle and forgiving.

The conversation  about sex must include the forgiveness and grace that need to follow failure. We need to talk about how our society and the church and schools have responsed to sexual issues in the past and whether those ways of responding are ways we want to keep using.  There has been a lot of judgment in the past that ignores our universal failure in this area. When it comes to issues of sexual morality, we all fail, actually quite similarly, and that is precisely what is too often ignored. The things to talk about are “our” sexual issues, not “their” sexual issues and we all we need to confess more and pronounce less.

Why confess about this more? Because others  are confessing, openly.  The confessional conversation is  already  going on, in public, in private, in everywhere. Proof? Just go to the movies.

Two nights ago my wife and daughters and I went to see the movie “Lincoln Lawyer.”  It’s a fairly fun movie. Matthew McConaughey actually gets a chance to act, and he does pretty well, at being cool, and fun. In the story, sex is for sale, and  murder after. It’s interesting, what entertains us. Are sex and murder entertaining? Of course they are.  Why? Because sex and violence have a powerful grip on all of us.

Sex is in the conversation that people are having, and if we want to be part of the conversation we must openly talk about sex. And if we don’t talk about sex, well, then we don’t, but that won’t stop everyone else from talking and interpreting it in ways that may not be honest or real. Sex is on the docket, and won’t be taken off, and if we don’t say anything,  we’ll be left out, without weighing in on one of life’s most significant issues.

Weigh in. I will.  Intepret or it will be interpreted for you. Sex is good, normal, fun, exciting, healing, and don’t plan on it stopping anytime  soon. And sexual issues can also be terribly and profoundly painful, because sex is not just a physical act, but a deeply ontological, psychological, social and spiritual part of all of us. It is wonderful and makes a wonderful life, and not.

A friend  sent me a text yesterday, “It’s a boy!”

“Cool!” I texted back, “Congrats!” This will be this young couples’ first baby. Lots of fun ahead for them.

A bit later, my daughter just texted me from her dorm room. “A girl on my hall just told us she’s engaged. Sorry I didn’t get back to you after you texted me, but I was yelling with everybody.”

“Whoohoo!” I texted back. “I guess.”

Of course its “whoohoo!” and I’m sure it will be fine, I guess, but I don’t know.  But it  will have a chance, I think, of being more fine if this young couple has people to talk to before they marry about sex and career and babies and fidelity and about times  coming when life won’t be “Whohoo!”

A happy marriage and happy babies after the wedding is absolutely fantastic, but it isn’t what some people end up as a result of romance, and love and sex. For many, the  relational and sexual stuff, as life goes along,  gets just plain excruciating —  a woman I know who was sexually abused as a child and then cheated on in her marriage as an adult, the  young man at the university who came out as gay, his fiancée, several of my conflicted gay friends, a woman I know who regrets not getting the degrees she always wanted to have before she had  babies. I love them, but they hurt, over choices they have made or others have made, and I know this because they tell me.

This morning my wife and I talked about a couple of people we know who are gay. One of them is in so much obvious pain that I worry about him. His sister just had a baby, made the family proud. He didn’t. I suffer for him. He needs to talk to someone, who is safe, and can understand. If he doesn’t find places to be heard, and understood, then he will really, really suffer, like he is right now. I know that God loves him and wants to enter into this struggle with him, but is this young man hearing this, enough, and does he understand this? I don’t know.

Here is the deal. I’m not shutting up about this, and I don’t think the rest of us should either.

We need to talk. And it needs to be talk that is first of all without judgment regarding people who are outside the norm and people who have made mistakes, and people who are in pain. And we need to talk more to young people who have questions and have never had honest answers from parents or leaders who have the wisdom that comes from experience and thought and morality and God and love.

In my house sex is a common topic. We laugh about it, make jokes about it, answer serious questions about it, have moral standards that we discuss, and yet we are open about our weaknesses and failures to be all we want to be.   We treat sex as a normal part of life, and we take it very seriously when there is ambiguity, uncertainty, mystery,  pain, beauty or love surrounding it. And there is, all this and so much more hovering at the edges of our sexuality.

Sex is a complex issue, and it needs some complex thinking and a complex dialogue. The people with the easy answers are fooling themselves and so they will be fooled, as life unfolds. The main thing is to  be open with ourselves and others and to get to know both ourselves and other people,  especially people who are different from us, and who have had different experiences, and to hear them, and feel with them and understand them and their pain so that we can better understand ourselves and our pain.

We need to have a conversation about sex, that doesn’t stop, with sex, but extends on into morality and God and pain and grace and unconditional love too.

Let’s keep talking.

For more of my thoughts on this, you are invited to visit  Click on the topic button, “Sex.”

  1. Shanyn Sprague says:

    Love, love, love this article!

  2. PC says:

    Hi Randy,
    I loved this article, how it is written, your thoughts and your open heart.
    Thank you,

  3. Rachel says:

    Well said.

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