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Finding my freedom from sensuality

A young woman shares her journey.

From the November 15, 2010 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


ARE WE INNATELY SEXUAL beings who can't exist happily without sex?

• Why would sensuality feel pleasurable, if it is considered a "sin"; and if so, does God "trick" His creation into enjoying something that's wrong?

• Is it OK to be sensual?

I have always been full of questions like these, and some of the most puzzling for me have revolved around sex and relationships.

As I was growing up, sexual promiscuity was constantly presented to me as natural, good, unavoidable, and necessary by my parents and those adults closest to me. After a while, however, I noticed that some of the sensuous activity I was around led to inharmony. I noticed the relationships never lasted long and didn't seem happy or fulfilling. Infidelities occurred, severe financial problems cropped up, and families broke down.

I wasn't exactly sure if this desperation and discord were linked to the sensual atmosphere or if they were caused by other factors. But, while I doubted the merits of sensuality, I began to have a strong desire for sexual gratification. In my junior year of high school, when these feelings began to grow, I decided that since I hadn't found satisfying answers, but only more questions, I might as well enjoy being sexually involved.

I started hanging out with a new group of friends. Most of our conversations revolved around our sexual preferences, our mood swings, our sexual orientation, "hookups" we'd had or wanted to have, even sex tools we used to feel pleasure. While I never actually went "all the way," there was plenty of experimenting, self-gratification, and even some viewing of pornography going on. I marinated my thought with sensuality, focusing more and more exclusively on how I felt and what I wanted.

Being around so much physically centered thought, as opposed to God-centered thought, had an effect on me, and I started to make out with random people at school, both boys and girls. I didn't have relationships with any of these people; it was all about the physical gratification.

Through this entire experience, I always loved God, tried to be a good person, and studied the Christian Science Bible Lessons daily. I had an inkling that maybe my sensual behavior and thoughts didn't fit with what I was learning about God, but I didn't understand why these two things—pleasure in matter and joy in Spirit—didn't coincide.

Occasionally, when I wouldn't feel comfortable, I would try to stop my behavior with willpower, but this always failed in the end. I didn't seem to be able to quit. Sexual activity was starting to feel like an addiction. As I kept going with this, I found that I needed more physical stimulation to get me going and that I needed it more frequently. I couldn't focus on my schoolwork and more important I started to feel distant from the clarity of God, divine Love. I stopped seeing people for who they really were, too. When I would meet someone, I would immediately think of them sexually instead of bearing witness to their good qualities. The inner conflict I felt was persistent.

The toll all this was taking on me began to surface, but I didn't yet completely connect my unease with the way I was leading my life. I wanted so badly to know if this was right, but I couldn't figure it out; some days I thought sexual promiscuity was fun and harmless, while other days I became frustrated and felt unfulfilled.

There were people in my life at this time who exemplified a strong sense of purity and innocence regarding intimacy. They seemed so peaceful and I wanted to be like them. But I thought I was just "different," plagued with a sexual need that was uncontrollable, and I felt I could never be as pure as they were.

Little did I know that a sense of purity isn't always revealed to us out of thin air—it's actually something that a lot of people struggle to discover. Waking up to our innate right to purity and balance can often be tricky, but I've found that these things reveal themselves as a result of spiritual commitment and growing closer to God. Since, at that point, I didn't feel it was possible to be pure like those I admired, I continued being sexually involved.

After about a year and a half, however, I hooked up with someone, and it felt drastically different from my previous encounters. We didn't really go further than I had with others, but for some reason it felt extremely intimate. It felt like we weren't just getting satisfaction. This turned my world upside down. I was so confused because I knew I didn't love him and he didn't love me. In fact, neither of us was interested in anything but one night of pleasure together. But for some reason when we were together, it felt like the real deal. I was extremely upset afterward; I obsessed over this guy, cried all the time, and was devoid of peace. The effect that this had on my life made me no longer able to pretend that sexuality without spiritual and emotional commitment was fun and harmless.

After this, I decided not to continue with the "hookups." I finally had to discover once and for all if my behavior was truly destructive, and if so, why. So I used what I knew about God and how He sees us as His children to reason through these important questions.

I opened myself up to really hearing God, no matter what the lessons would be. My intuition told me that I might have to stop pursuing pleasure in this way, and this frightened me because it meant giving up so much of what I thought my identity was. But I knew that I couldn't keep walking down a path that led to the pain I felt.

In the process, I found something in Science and Health that spoke directly to me. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one" (pp. 82-83).

With the help and encouragement of a friend who'd been healed of sensual behavior as well as alcohol abuse, I was able to turn wholeheartedly to God for answers. I actually didn't work with a Christian Science practitioner about this issue. To be honest, it didn't occur to me.

I had experienced and witnessed spiritual healings many times in my life, and so prayer through Christian Science, which strives to put into practice the healing principles employed by Jesus, felt natural to me. My thought gradually began to change, moving to a higher view of myself and others. Just by turning to God, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders, and it was like coming home.

As I thought and prayed, I discovered that true satisfaction never followed sexual gratification. The desire for more always came back. I still didn't understand how it was possible for me to be satisfied, so I kept listening to God. My prayers led me to contemplate the spiritual concept of man in Christian Science. Science and Health describes "man" as "made in the image and likeness of God" (p. 475). I realized that since man is spiritual, matter, the opposite of God, Spirit, could never satisfy. I realized that if I waited for the body to satisfy me, I would be waiting forever. Matter is illusive, fading, fleeting. We are each the idea of divine Love, and can only be sustained by the substance of Spirit. Because Spirit is loving, we can expect to find just the right ways to express real love and care for another.

Even as I was growing spiritually, there was a constant clash between these efforts and what it felt like my body wanted. I came face to face with this question: Would God create us to be able to experience such a tormenting battle? My question was answered as I thought about the nature of divine Love.

One of the Bible verses that I cherish is, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). To me this says that God has always loved us and will always love us. If God created us with "kindness," wouldn't it be kind to make us not only able to function in life but to thrive, free from constant nagging desire?

Through understanding divine Love better, I was learning that, no, God would not make it possible for us to be in such conflict. God never leads man into confusion because our birthright is perfect clarity.

The final realization was that this greediness for physical satisfaction could really be healed, even for me.

I love this passage from the Bible: "Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way!.... not even the worst sins listed in the Scripture ...can get between us and God's love" (see Rom. 8:35-39, The Message).

Even if it seems like we are not acting holy, God is with us because He knows that our real nature is perfect. With the understanding that I really was God's child, not a sinning mortal, but cherished by divine Love, I had enough spiritual conviction to reject the idea that I was trapped by lust.

Since these ideas have fully bloomed in my thought, I have been free of an insatiable libido. By the end of my senior year I was no longer thinking sensually or participating in sexual activity. My desire to be sexually intimate with women also evaporated. I used to think of myself as bisexual, and that's not the case anymore.

Waking up to our innate right to purity and balance can often be tricky, but I've found that these things reveal themselves as a result of spiritual commitment and growing closer to God.

What I tried in vain to make myself stop wanting, I was finally able to be healed of through my earnest prayers to know more about God and His children. I cannot describe the relief this has brought to me or the sense of clarity with which I am now able to live my life. I do not feel one bit of deprivation; instead, I am full of joy because of the freedom God led me to. And I know now that this feeling of absolute peace is the natural state of being for all mankind. We aren't ensnared by lust or sensuality—divine Love just wouldn't curse us like that. Instead, God blesses abundantly.

One might think that with these realizations I would want to turn away from sexual activity forever. However, I feel like now I understand the context in which sex belongs. A few weeks after the healing, one of my married friends told me that the sex within her marriage revolved around selfless love and did not include one speck of dissatisfaction, lust, or conflict. This was a revelation to me! It was wonderful to hear about an example of marital sex as pure and selfless.

I feel there is no need to fear or to avoid relationships. On the other hand, I think the world is calling us to be discerning, embrace right relationships with open arms, and pray to see that purity is the birthright of all.

I now put the question of whom to date, and whom to marry, in God's hands. I take comfort in these Bible verses: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:5, 6). God leads us to all that is good and pure, and we can trust in the Love that provides absolutely. ♦

In order to preserve confidentiality, the author's name has been withheld.

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