Reuniting Our Separated Selves

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

Reuniting Our Separated Selves
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace. . . . All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded, and understood in its spiritual nature. . . . The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. [See 1 Corinthians 6:19.] —John O’Donohue [1]

How we relate to one thing is probably how we relate to everything. How we relate sexually to ourselves and others is a good teacher for how we relate to God (and how we relate to God is an indicator of how we will relate to everything else). Religion, as its root re-ligio (to “re-ligament”) indicates, is the task of putting our divided realities back together: human and divine, male and female, heaven and earth, sin and salvation, mistake and glory, matter and spirit. This is the task of every human life.

The mystics—including many faithful lovers, parents, friends, and artists—are those who reconnect what has been separated and experience deep intimacy and union with God, self, and others. “Sinners” are those who keep everything divided and never enjoy things in their wholeness. When we only relate to parts instead of wholes, we can make terrible mistakes, and we all do this in one way or another.

The Muslim mystic, Shams-ud-din Mohammad Hafiz (c. 1320-1389), wrote Persian poetry with such intimacy between human love and divine love that the reader often loses the awareness of which is which. Consider this poem inspired by Hafiz, “You Left a Thousand Women Crazy”:

Beloved,
Last Time
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and so naked,

You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.

Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay its Ancient Love at Your feet. [2]

Yes, the poet is talking about God’s abundant presence walking through the streets, but his images come from human fascinations and feelings. Yes, he is talking about seething human desire, but he is also convinced that it is a sweet path to God.

Why has this integration, this coincidence of seeming opposites, occurred with relative rarity within Christianity? One would think that if there were any religion that would have most welcomed this connection, it would have been Christianity. After all, we believe that God became a living human body through the Incarnation in Jesus.

If we don’t recognize the sacred at the deep level of gender identity and sexual desire, I don’t know if we will be able to see it anywhere else. When Christians label LGBTQIA [3] individuals as inherently sinful or disordered, we hurt these precious people and limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life—the very opposite of the abundance into which God invites us.

References:
[1] John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (Cliff Street Books: 1997), 48.

[2] Daniel Ladinsky, I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz (Sufism Reoriented: 1996). Used with permission.

[3] LGBTQIA is an inclusive acronym that includes most sexual and gender identities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/agender/aromantic. This is a good teaching tool, if nothing else. The dualistic mind insists on simple male and female, the nondual mind can speak honestly—after simple observation—of many ways of being.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 136-138.

Image credit: Study for the Libyan Sibyl (detail), Michelangelo Buonarotti, ca. 1510-11. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace. . . . All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. . . . The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. —John O’Donohue
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