Monday, February 11, 2008

Sexual Healing

When I get that feeling, I need, sexual healing...

-Marvin Gaye

What feeling? You know the one. That sudden, sickening flashback to days-gone-by where all of the sudden you're that girl or that guy again, reliving memories of frat parties and late nights out long gone... or maybe not so long gone, but for whatever reason something brings you back there, face to face with the dreaded p-word: the Past. Maybe it's a song lyric, the whiff of a stranger's vaguely familiar cologne, an old photograph...

And suddenly the past is present, and you're confronted with your "old" self, or more accurately, you're confronted with the crimes and misdemeanors committed by version 1.0 of your truly.

Here's where even we Catholics have a bit more to work out beyond the confessional, because while God's mercy is present, our receptivity to His grace and forgiveness can be seriously hindered by an entirely different sin, a lingering phenomenon that would enslave us to our past sins and shortcomings and deny the triumph of the Cross. Shame.
Shame is one of those wonderfully diabolical twists on the natural goods of contrition and modesty. Shame, whose roots are firmly planted in pride, whispers to us in our darkest moments...

You haven't changed a bit. We both know who you really are, who are you trying to fool? I see what you've done, where you've been. You deserve this; you're damaged goods.

I think that shame is an especially effective tool in the realm of sexual sin. It's really one of Satan's last stands in this area, a desperate final attempt to "reform" a repentant sinner, at least from what I recognize in my limited comprehension of Ignatian spirituality.

Think about it. You're not going back down that road, there's no way. So what is the devil left with? Shame. Our unwillingness, in our falleness, to forgive ourselves what God already has. That's the only "in" Satan has, but he'll take it, because there's no where he'd rather hit us.

There's nowhere we more perfectly image our Creator than in the life-giving sexual union between man and wife. It follows, then, that sexual sin can be such a temptation. And the fallout from this sin is so dramatic.

But it doesn't have to be. The healing that His forgiveness truly effects on us includes the sure antidote to shame: humility.

Humility in accepting His forgiveness when we'd rather dwell in self pity. Humility in recognizing our desperate need for His grace to persevere in the new life we've been given. Humility in realizing that we're not above the occasion of sin, but that He has perfect power available in our weakness.


  1. Jenny, you are wise to see this. It's true for all sorts of sinful behavior, too, not just the sexual sort.

    In my humble opinion, you are quite correct in tracing it back to pride as well. Pride has long fingers and a wide reach - it seems to be part of almost every episode where I find myself off track and requires constant vigilance.


  2. Shame tied to feelings of being unforgiven...a sad state indeed.

    Humility...yes a very good antidote.

    To this add the practice of forgiving others always and everywhere...even if the other doesn't ask or feel they need it...and even if they 'don't deserve it' or 'haven't earned' our pardon. Forgive nevertheless.

    If we practice forgiveness as such, then we can say 'AWAY SATAN' (just as our Lord did in last Sunday's gospel) and he vanishes into thin air.

  3. Thank you for posting this. It really made me think.

  4. This post has been hanging around in my head for a few days...not the part about sexual healing...but the part about 'shame'.

    I keep hearing St. Paul's lament in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 where he complains..."Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated." It seems perhaps, (my speculation only),that the 'shame' of his pre-conversion attack on Christ's body was going to keep him humble in spite of his 'extraordinary revelations'.

  5. That's a beautiful insight tausign, I think there is definately a legitimate and even a godly sense of regret where past sins are concerned... I unfortunately have had the title of my own post running through my head these past few days, and it's definately set to music.

    It's like a broken record, which is kind of the point I was getting at in regards to our own contemplation of our failures, and how they need to be rightly ordered toward an awareness of His mercy. Dwelling on past sins is only productive inasmuch as it leads us into a deeper appreciaten of His goodness and of our utter dependence on Him; anything else becomes an exercise in neurotic guilt and can foster discouragement and even despair.

  6. Another great post!

    I forget the name of the nun who said this, but there was a great article in our local Catholic paper recently. This nun said that she didn't like the phrase "secondary virginity" in Catholic sex ed programs. The nun said that makes it sound "second-rate."Instead, she uses the phrase 'restored virginity."

    "How can virginity once lost, ever be restored?" the reporter asked. The nun answered "when we hand over our broken sexuality to Jesus in prayer, he grants us HIS perfect virginity in return."

    I just loved that image! It's helping me counter-act some major shame this Lent.


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