It is 3 pm on July 4. I plop on the couch for an afternoon nap after a pleasant morning with my daughter and some friends at the annual parade. Friends are due to arrive at 6 to watch a movie.
My cell phone rings. My pastor’s name appears on caller ID. I’m shocked. I don’t ever remember receiving a call from him … and it’s a holiday.
Our conversation is amusing.
Our Wires Are Crossed Wires
MIKE … asks me about my involvement with Imago Die (Latin for Image of God).
LINDA … clarifies. “I was an Imago Relationship Therapist. The term Imago (a word used to describe a butterfly’s chrysalis) was used to describe this transformative therapy with couples and families.”
MIKE … tells Linda about his sermon series on sex, gender, and sexuality. He’s looking for someone who could speak from the standpoint of human beings having been created in the Image of God. God pronounced creation as good. A part of the goodness of creation is the sacred gift of sex, gender, and sexuality.
He asks Linda to give a testimony later in the month.
LINDA … I don’t realize Mike is speaking to the professional me. I’m retired and don’t think of myself in my professional role anymore. I think he’s asking me to give a personal testimony.
I laugh. “I think it is hilarious that you are asking me to give a testimony on sex. You haven’t read my memoir yet, have you?”
MIKE … says something about all the books on his desk.
LINDA … “I’m not asking to make you feel guilty. It’s just obvious that you haven’t read my story or you wouldn’t be asking me to do a testimony on sex. Yes, I believe sex is something sacred to be treated with reverence, but I have no experience with that.”
I throw out a couple of tidbits to convince him I am not the person to be giving this testimony.”
MIKE … “This conversation isn’t going in the direction I expected. You do have a testimony. Your experience with the dark side of sex needs to be spoken in church. Will you think about it?
LINDA … Still thinking it is hilarious that he’s asking me, I agree. I ponder, “Do I have anything of value to say about this subject?”
The Next Day, I Respectfully Decline
LINDA … I send Mike an email. I respectfully decline and name several couples in the congregation who I believe would be better choices … people who could speak from their experience about sex as a sacred gift.
MIKE responds immediately. “I don’t think your understanding is what I intended.” He is willing to accept my decision and gives me some things to think about:
“You do have a testimony, albeit from the ‘dark side.’ That experience is important to name. It is your testimony. Your experience has been painful and hurtful. That needs to be said in church.
So your testimony could lead you to speak words of hope, longing, desire…that your own sense of self, your current relationships, and any future relationships that might involve sex would have a very different context and be very different from your experience. That it would be rooted in the goodness and love of God and spring from that well of life … naming and reframing sex and sexuality from that foundation.
… you also speak words of testimony as a WISE WOMAN. You have the power and influence to call younger folks with years of promise before them to center their sexuality, their gender, and their sexual relations grounded in the goodness and love of God … to not waste time and energy on those who would demean that foundation and abuse that sacred trust.
… My main point is this. You do have a testimony. A testimony that needs to be heard. That is what I would want you to share.”
I Reconsider … I Ponder
“Is the Universe playing tricks on me? This would be the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. I do have a reputation for being vulnerable. Is this something I am supposed to do? My friend, Marvel, thought so. What of value do I have to say?”
I start writing … six pages drawing on the work of spiritual guide, Cynthia Bourgeault (she writes about Eucharistic sex in The Meaning of Mary Magdalene), and sex therapist, Esther Perel (who speaks about sex as transcendent and mystical in her interview with Krista Tippett).
An academic treatise will not do.
A Dawning Awareness
I attend church on July 14, Mike’s first Sunday preaching on sex. I want to see how he approaches the subject. A woman in the congregation gives her testimony. My tears begin to flow.
“What is this about?” I ask myself. “Her story is very different than mine. Why all the tears?”
That wise voice within speaks: “She was being so REAL … in church!”
My Testimony Emerges
To be continued …