Dignify and Deploy 25: Humanizing Sexual Wholeness
‘How, Wojtyla asks, can men and women become responsible lovers, so that our sexual love embodies a genuine freedom?... I cannot achieve my destiny by myself…To achieve my destiny, I must “meet the freedom of another person and depend on it.”’ George Weigel, on Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility
We cannot achieve our call to embody God’s best for our sexuality alone; we need one another. John Wimber understood this need and invited others wisely into his weakness. I was one such friend. He trusted me on a handful of occasions to help him parse his experience of temptation.
We conferenced together at an Episcopalian Seminary (I did a ‘Living Waters’ training in the day, he a series of renewal nights). During that week, he asked me why he was experiencing an unusual number of unclean thoughts. I answered immediately: ‘This denomination led the way in challenging marriage between man and woman as the sole ground for sexual activity. The boundary lines are broken here, and we are burned by fire.’
Clean while owning his vulnerability, John modelled how we could live holiness. Humility and honesty defined him. Vineyard pastors usually followed suit, often leading out with examples of how God and members strengthened them in moral weakness to avoid wickedness.
There is an art to this. One can overshare publicly while failing to share with loved ones first. This gives the appearance of brokenness without first doing the hard work of opening to those most impacted by him or her. John helped me here.
Wimber befriended Rich Buhler, a Christian radio personality in Los Angeles (he put Desert Stream Ministries on the map there through multiple interviews with me) who pioneered our need to face honestly abuse and the addictions that issue from unhealed trauma. John enjoyed deep fellowship with Rich as they probed together how and why we get stuck in sin. While he realized Jesus’ Kingdom was mighty to save, John knew the complications of the human heart. He realized we needed a path and walking partners if we are to heal.
A man ‘who loved easily’ (Weigel, p. 87), St. John Paul II contended that persons called to celibacy for the Kingdom’s sake could live a robust life of love. Karol maintained active friendship with women; he lived the truth of his conviction to dignify ‘the other’ through chaste love. Christopher West notes that John Paul invested for years in relationship with philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka and Dr. Wanda Polatawska, a WWII concentration camp survivor. ‘Maturity allows one to move with even greater freedom in human relationships,’ said West, quoting JP’s final work Memory and Identity.
John Paul didn’t let nuns and priests off the hook. His Theology of the Body has a dynamic section on Kingdom celibacy (Matt. 19:11, 12) where he makes clear that one cannot renounce what one does not love. In other words, don’t hide your sexual frustrations behind a veil or cassock! Work out your wholeness in fear and trembling before assuming holy orders! He nuances what it means for a person to make a ‘mature choice’ for celibacy. That includes a personal ‘affirmation that flows from the discovery of the gift of one’s body.’ Only the man or woman of embodied dignity can give freely within limits as to dignify others (TOB 81:1-7).
‘Father, help us to own our humanity as we seek to live out loud, yet with wisdom. Teach us to honor our bodies as we reverence others. Teach us how to live honest and vulnerable lives. May others be dignified, not confused, by our witness.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”