Shedding light on love and sexuality
A conversation with Ginny Luedeman
Reprinted from the June 18, 2007, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.
Ginny Luedeman is a Christian Science practitioner and lecturer from Salem, Oregon. She’s been traveling throughout the United States giving her lecture, “Plain talk about love and sexuality.” Ingrid Peschke, a staff editor with the Christian Science Sentinel, recently spoke with Ginny in between lecture trips.
Can we start with why you feel sexuality is so important to address?
Sexuality is a big topic, and it needs to be thought about in the light of spirituality. We all deal with sexual issues in some way, so I’m grateful the Christian Science Sentinel is helping to clarify thought about it.
Sexuality is really just the surface of a lot of deep things that need to be looked at and understood. Isn’t it important to understand the deep feelings that we’re having and see them in relation to our spirituality?
I saw an iceberg when I was fishing up in Alaska. Only 10 percent of an iceberg is visible. The other 90 percent is beneath the water. The tip is so beautiful—unbelievable colors. But the true substance of what I was seeing was mostly under the water.
Questions people have about sexuality need to be addressed.
And I think that’s true in life—all the “under the surface stuff” is so important to acknowledge. I think about this beautiful line from a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal: “In dark and hidden places / There shines the blessed light …” (No. 2). These questions people have about sexuality are kind of the dark and hidden places, and they need to be addressed.
What’s one question that you’ve been hearing over and over from people?
I often hear the question, “Do sexuality and spirituality naturally eliminate each other?” The idea that you’re either human or you’re spiritual, and that the two don’t mix, comes up a lot. And I think it’s really about Mary Baker Eddy’s statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
In other words, being a Christian Scientist doesn’t require us to ascend instantly in our present experience, but brings the Christ right to where we are and tenderly persuades us to go higher in our understanding of the spiritual nature of things, one step at a time.
Explain what you mean by “ascend.”
Well, I really mean walking free of the limits of matter, whatever those limits are. Ascending thought is another way of describing spiritual growth or awakening.
I often think of growing spiritually as like teaching a child to walk. As a child learns to take steps, a parent gets down on the ground on their level and encourages the child with great joy to move forward. It’s the same thing in our relationships. The Christ—God’s loving presence—persuades us to take steps that are freer and more loving, even if they’re just baby steps at first.
We know how to love each other better when we understand more of our spiritual identity.
Christian Science doesn’t make us cold or indifferent. It makes women more womanly and men more manly, and broadens our sense of ourselves. It makes us feel more satisfied and complete, more gentle, more tender, compassionate, and so on. It wakes us up to a deeper spirituality in both ourselves and in each other. We know how to love each other better when we understand more of our spiritual identity.
So do you mean that our spiritual identity should naturally instruct our sexuality? That is, that the two really aren’t disconnected?
Well, yes, there’s a coincidence between the two, but we can’t expect more of ourselves or of each other than we’re capable of understanding at this time. We can’t rush or fake spiritual understanding.
On the other hand, I try not to identify myself, or others, in terms of sexuality. It’s really our spiritual identity that defines each one of us. This physical stuff is like a shadow, and the spiritual is the substance. The shadow follows but doesn’t lead.
What about the idea that having sexual thoughts is wrong in general?
I often use the analogy in my lecture that sex is to love as laughter is to joy. That is, you can have sex in an appropriate way just as you can laugh at the right time—but if you laugh at the wrong time, or have sex at the wrong time, with motives that are less than unselfish or loving, it can be very hurtful to love and joy. Sex that is selfish doesn’t express love, but lust.
I think lust is about wanting something that you don’t think you have.
My 14-year-old son recently asked me, “What’s lust?” I think lust is about wanting something that you don’t think you have and wanting it quite desperately.
I’ve been there. I searched desperately for love when I was in my late teens. I thought I would find it in sleeping with men. But I found those relationships just couldn’t give me anything lasting. I learned, perhaps the hard way, that the love I was searching for isn’t in people but is found in an intimate, deep love for God that I already had within me. As I started to understand that love, my sexual thoughts and relationships began to line up with that completeness, rather than being full of lust and want.
And this wonderful process happens gradually. It’s the product of spiritual growth. Many of us have had tough childhoods, and we may not feel complete yet. Or perhaps someone had a bad experience like being date-raped, and may have felt as if they’d lost their purity, respect, or sense of control.
No person can actually take away or destroy your spiritual qualities.
I’ve found it so comforting to realize that no person can actually take away or destroy your spiritual qualities. Tenderness, because it comes from God, can’t be taken by a physical act. By tuning in to, understanding, our spiritual completeness, we gradually come into our own, where no one can ever add to or take away from our spiritual completeness. As we understand more of that completeness, we know better how to love each other.
In Genesis 1, there’s a passage I think of as authority for spiritual completeness. It says, “Male and female created he them.” Since God created us complete, our thoughts can express completeness. We include all male and female qualities to express, such as strength and tenderness and so on.
What if someone said to you, “I feel pretty complete, but I don’t want to ignore my sexual urges. What do I do with those feelings?”
I’ve found the main thing to remember is that I’m in control of what I think and feel because God gave me dominion (control) over this body. I’m going to use my body to express the most loving and appropriate behavior at any given moment. My purpose is to show an individual, unique view of what God is. I’m a statement of God’s nature.
The different issues that men and women face in dealing with sexuality, that older and younger people face, are unique—but we’re all on a journey to discover our real purpose.
Thinking is our best tool to get where we want to go.
In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy wrote, “The time for thinkers has come.” That’s a pretty big statement to make. Thinking is our best tool to get where we want to go. It’s like the steering wheel on my car. I don’t let go when I’m going fast. So even if you’re in the middle of a sexual experience, I’ve found you don’t have to stop thinking—thinking of yourself as complete.
That’s a good point, but one could argue that sexual feelings are based on emotion and can feel difficult to control.
Sometimes I fight against intense sexual feelings to know that right now, even in the middle of a sexual act, I’m satisfied, formed of dignity and intelligence, and that I don’t have to stop praying and claiming my completeness.
People have commented that we’re either human or we’re spiritual, and that the two don’t mix. But I find that the beauty of Jesus’ mission was to show us that divine Love, this Love we call God, comes right to where we are, and helps us in practical ways.
What about those who maybe feel they’ve gone down roads they regret? Perhaps an individual knowingly engages in a sexual act that is hurtful or harmful to themselves and others, but they can’t seem to stop themselves. Are they beyond God’s help?
No. This reminds me of the Bible story of the woman taken in adultery. And let me clarify that this isn’t a “slap on the hand” kind of story—or even a “look what happens when you sin” kind of story. At its core, this story shows the power of love before there’s even a change of behavior.
Her accusers were ready to make her pay the penalty by stoning her.
This woman was caught right in the middle of the “act”—and who knows what she was dressed like. And Jesus stood right next to her with her accusers, the men who were ready to make her pay the penalty by stoning her. That was already a big deal—yet he eliminated all the self-righteousness and condemnation that the men surrounding her had in their hearts.
The men left one by one, and when Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked her, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man accused thee?” and she responded, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
And I think of sin as a mistaken sense of God, and therefore of oneself. Jesus probably showed this woman such a pure sense of love that she didn’t want anything else. She must have felt totally loved and satisfied at that point. But the wonderful part is that the Christ-love stood by her and moved her beyond both the sin and the consequences.
The Christ is present with each of us at all times, those who’ve been through divorces, unwanted pregnancies, hurtful relationships, disease, and so on. The Christ takes all the consequences away. Wow ... that’s a lovely thought. Because once we’ve turned to the presence of God’s love, or the Christ, and feel its embrace, we can find freedom from the consequences—the suffering that a mistaken view of God and of ourselves can bring.
That really is a beautiful point. That’s the Christ.
That is the Christ. The Christ always stands right with us and never leaves us. It’s always loving and instructing us, no matter how deeply we feel entrenched in some activity. No matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us, there’s always a way to erase the hurt and guilt. I often pray with Mrs. Eddy’s statement: “... to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good.” (p. 494). In every hour, every moment, God’s love is and was all that’s really going on.
Let’s talk about marriage for a moment. What if two people differ on their thoughts about sexuality within their marriage?
In marriage, sometimes one partner will not feel the need for sex anymore. Sometimes, the other spouse may feel ashamed of his or her sexual feelings. But this answer came to me recently—and at first it made me laugh because it seemed like an odd answer.
Whatever tries to separate or divide us—we need to go against that.
It was this Bible verse: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Of course your spouse isn’t the devil—the “devil” is never the other person or their sexual needs. What requires resisting are devilish thoughts like condemnation, indifference to our partner’s needs, self-righteousness, and so forth. The devil is really whatever tries to separate or divide us—and we need to go against that.
At times, women in particular might get to a point where they just feel they don’t need their husband anymore—maybe they don’t feel as sexual or they feel financially secure, the kids are grown, or whatever. But we have the right to feel a growing sense of love for each other for all of our lives. When these thoughts come that we’ve outgrown our spouse or that we don’t need or love each other anymore, we can look beyond those self-thoughts to find within us the love that goes deep. We can discover more of the spiritual nature that’s ever alive, new, and real.
Mrs. Eddy talks in Science and Health about renewing “the old trysting-times”—we can always feel not just “in love” but “in divine Love” with each other.
I’m sure you’ve had to prove that in your own life.
Absolutely. My husband and I have been married 38 years now—and as we grow in spiritual understanding, we continue to find that ever-renewing love. But self-righteousness can wipe out a lot of marriages. For example, one time my husband patted me on the bottom, and I turned around and firmly told him to stop it. He looked at me and said, “What? Take my material hand off your spiritual rear end?” I had been praying and feeling really holy and spiritual. But I was leaving him out of the picture.
We’re here to take care of each other in every way.
I had to laugh. That really woke me up. I realized, Sure, I could try to be a spiritual monk, but that’s not expressing love. We’re here to take care of each other in every way: “Matrimony should never be entered into without a full recognition of its enduring obligations on both sides,” Science and Health points out. Whether married or not, we’re here to love. Marriage is a promise to do that.
Love isn’t this high and mighty idea—love is in the bedroom, in the kitchen, in our children’s lives. It “meets every human need,” including sexuality. If Christian Science wasn’t practical, it wouldn’t be worth a hoot.
Can you comment on this statement in Science and Health: “Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life”?
Chastity really means purity and wholeness. The cement of any relationship is the chastity of it, the purity of it. Chastity doesn’t mean stagnation; it means pure unselfishness, loving with your whole heart, because God is Love. God is Love itself. I remind myself when dealing with sexual questions in my marriage: “I’m here to express Love in this relationship. How can I best do that?”
Being chaste isn’t so much about what you shouldn’t be doing, as much as it is about being what you are as God sees you.
Each one of us is like that diamond, precious in God’s eyes.
Say you had an incredible diamond in your pocket. Would you pass it around for everyone to look at? Probably not. But if you had a best friend sitting next to you, whom you trusted, you might share it with that person. For me, that best friend is my spouse. Each one of us is like that diamond, of great value and precious in God’s eyes.
The promise of marriage is the best thing we have—because marriage is a deep commitment of the heart. The whole of society needs to help encourage and cherish that promise. In marriage, we can grow spiritually when there is consistency and deep love for each other. Marriage deepens relationships when spiritually based.
I find that the most satisfying thing is not just “having sex” but “having love.” It has to start with the origin—with God—because God truly is All, and there’s no other love to love each other with but the love of God.
How can an individual feel in control of his or her body—and I suppose that would include pain and pleasure—and not at the mercy of whatever it seems to be feeling?
I like to think of myself kind of like a wrench in God’s hand. If I decide to use a wrench and tighten something up, it doesn’t argue with me or make its own conditions. My prayer is “God, take me and use me to express Your love.” The body is a servant in that process.
I can claim my ability to think clearly throughout my day.
So if sexual thoughts or feelings are interrupting my day, I have the right to stop and think, “No, be still.” Right where some of these out-of-control thoughts are, I can claim my ability to think clearly throughout my day. I express control that way.
There’s so much we could cover on this topic—clearly we can’t do it all. But I’d love to hear some of your closing thoughts.
It’s just so important to give ourselves permission to take God into all of our intimate thoughts. This brings us to a better sense of ourselves and others. To discover the possibilities of love is a wonderful journey, an awakening to the kingdom of heaven both within and without us. There is no better love than heaven right here. That’s what the Bible is all about—finding deep and lasting love. Christ Jesus’ life shows us how to love and be loved.
I love to think that Christian Science isn’t a “don’t do it” religion—it’s a “look and see how wonderful you are” way of thinking. It shows us how “in Love” we all are right now! And in that sense of love, we know how to love each other, naturally.
Sex and love:
Science and Health:
King James Bible:
Gen. 1:27 male
James 4:7 Resist
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