Michael Woodhead

SPIRITUALITY AND SEXUALITY

Struggle Or Synthesis

For forty-six years, I have been involved in a conflict between spirituality and sexuality -- are they able to be integrated into a balanced life, or are they diametrically opposed. Or is there some other answer?

Interestingly enough, it began at a United Church summer camp. I was seven, and my counselor molested me. I didn't see it as molestation back then, and I still have a hard time accepting it as such today. For, instead of the experience leaving me with a fear of sex and -- not unlike many other molested children, a revulsion for sex or even the touch of another person -- it instilled in me a fascination for it and a need for acceptance.

My childhood thereafter consisted of various "experiments" with other neighborhood kids the "you-show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine" kind.

In my early teens, I discovered masturbation and this became a daily morning ritual for over eleven years and, too, it has been a method of escape in times of depression and despair.

But my teen years were also a time of sexual confusion, a time when an interest in the arts meant you were probably gay. I didn't think I was gay, but I certainly had a keen interest in art, music, drama, writing and fashion. Perhaps, I reasoned, I should have been born a woman.

This ushered in my transsexual period my late teens and early twenties as I tried to find a way to explain my apparent feminine side. I hoped that I might somehow obtain the necessary operation and medications with which I could become the woman I believed I should have been.

When I was twenty-four, this period came to an end when I lost my virginity to a girl friend when she found out I had never had sex with a woman. Following this late initiation, I realized I preferred to be a man.

This did not, however, stop my fascination with sex.

Around the same time as my molestation, I also had my first experience with spirituality at a Billy Graham Crusade. I don't recall whether I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at this time, but the music and preaching certainly caught my attention.

When I was ten, a boy and I were caught "examining" each other. Furious beyond words, my father dealt me a severe thrashing and thereafter promptly enrolled me in the Kingston Bible College Academy. Perhaps he felt such schooling would straighten me out.

Once more I became interested in gospel music, hymns and Bible studies; from this time on until I was fifteen, I attended Sunday School and sang in church choirs.

As I grew older, I began to study the teachings of other religions as well as Christianity and I began to notice something peculiar -- they all seemed to advise that in order to become more spiritual, one must become less sexual. This led to further confusion and frustration because as much as I enjoyed the spiritual aspect of my life, I also enjoyed sex. I was sure the two could be somehow integrated into a balanced life.

It didn't help matters either when, upon accepting Christ into my heart at age twenty-seven, two Christian girls allowed me to be quite intimate with them. Then, much later, men like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker succumbed to the very sin with which I, too, was dealing. If they couldn't gain victory over sexual sin, then how much harder would it be for me?

My continuing struggles led me to other avenues of help -- Sexaholics Anonymous, personal counseling, the deliverance ministry, prayer, pleading and making deals with God.

It is an inescapable fact that God has made us sexual beings and capable of extremely pleasurable sex at that. In my years in the church, I found that few Christians seemed to be willing to discuss sexuality and how it pertains to Christianity, other than to fall back on the admonition that to become more spiritual, we must sublimate the sexual.

How many of us are really able to do that? How many others struggle as I do and cannot find those willing to listen, to comfort, to not judge but rather to try and give helpful counsel?

It is also unfortunate that Christ never really broached the subject of sex and we never really see him in any sort of personal relationship with a woman.

There is a great deal of sexual activity in the Bible, most of it illicit, and much of this is never really dealt with from the pulpit, or is kind of quickly skimmed over in order to get to the more "spiritual" aspects of a study. Few Christians are even willing to discuss sexuality. Why?

Are there skeletons in their closet that they don't want to reveal?

Lot and his daughters commit incest; David has a voyeuristic experience when he spies upon Bathsheba; the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah apparently commit sodomy although it is not explicitly stated. And there are other descriptions of perverse activities.

But there is also the Song of Solomon, a beautiful erotic work that has all too often been used to express the relationship of Christ and the church; but it is also a description of the beauty of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. It is both spiritually symbolic and physically celebratory.

Christians decry the preponderance of pornography and explicit sexuality on the Internet, motion pictures and television. But churches don't seem to offer satisfactory ways to resist such influences, nor suggestions on how to respond in healthy ways; rather, they seem to condemn and offer little help or understanding for dealing with such temptations.

Perhaps one of these days, I and others who share the same personal conflicts, may just find the answers we seek. Perhaps, as in many other areas of life, it all comes down to a matter of choice. I have begun to see this more and more. We choose to do something right or wrong, or we choose not to do something. And only we can be held accountable for our own actions.

"[You] Flee also youthful lusts" - II Timothy 222

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." - James 114

"[you] abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" I Peter 211

So, ultimately, we choose to obtain the freedom we are promised in Christ.

And this, I believe, is the answer.


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