I think I’ve written about this before, in various ways, but in answering Kristin’s post referenced here earlier today, I used these words and want to blog them here:
Here’s what I want for [my children] (who are 23, 18 and 14 now). I want them to view themselves as whole people, loved body and soul by God. I want them to love themselves, body and soul, and to recognize how inextricable those two parts are. I want them to love another person, body and soul, and to regard that person’s wholeness to be as precious as their own. In talking to them, I’ve called it a Love Ethic where sex is concerned. Love yourself, love your partner, and remember that how you live is an expression of how you love God. It’s for them to work out when that happens, and I trust them to be true to their teaching.
To go further, this is not an idea about what is good for children to know but what I hope people can know about themselves, that they have value and a responsibility to attribute that value to others and to treat them with love and care in relationships, whatever names are attached to those relationships.
I avoid discussions of marriage for two reasons. First, I think it should be available to everyone as a civil right, and until it is, I’m irritated that I can have it and others can’t. We’re coming closer to having that right in Maine, but face a campaign this fall to overturn the new legislation extending the right to all. Second, I don’t really want to get into a scripture throw-down with anyone about marriage, because I don’t have the patience for a discussion based on ancient rules and stories that devalued women and treated them as property. That is no basis for any arrangements in the 21st century, and people who use those texts to justify a point of view are beyond debating, in my experience.
My own experiences in the sexual realm are pretty limited for someone born in the 1960s. Very, in fact. I played by the good girl rules. I’ve had sex within marriage and sex outside it, and I’ve had it with love and without it, both inside and outside marriage, and all I can tell you is it’s better with love. But that love is not about romance or even necessarily a long-term commitment. It’s about a sense that your existence matters deeply to the other person and your coming together is holy because of it.
There’s lots of sex in lots of marriages that does not meet that definition.
So even though we don’t often associate it with sex, which we want to affiliate with the “eros” love, and it’s hard to sustain a marriage without that particular connection, I want to say that what really matters is agape. What really matters is being in the arms of a person whose love you trust to be unselfish, generally, and giving, mostly, and freely offered, as much as humanly possible. To get a higher score on those, grace helps, too.