By Eric L. Hays-Strom
I never thought about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality until several years ago. If the two words came up in conjunction with each other at all, my first thought, indeed my only thought, was that they were totally unrelated.
That all began to change in January 2000 when three of us set off on a road trip to southern California. Scott and I and our dearest friend, Karla, were on our way to a meeting in Palm Springs. While there, we took the opportunity to visit the headquarters of our denomination, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.
While perusing the resources available there, we discovered a tape series about spirituality and sexuality, “The Erotic Contemplative” by Michael Bernard Kelly. I was immediately intrigued. On our two-ay drive home from Los Angeles to Omaha, we started listening to the tapes and discussing the questions that came in a guide with the tapes. It was probably amongst the most intimate conversations of sex, sexuality and spirituality I have ever had. At one point I recall going into extreme detail in answer to a question from Karla, “Just what is it two gay men do when they have sex?” Oral sex was obvious to her, but what else if anything? And so I told her!
The tapes, and that discussion, were for me the beginning of a quest to incorporate my sexuality and my spirituality. Though in truth, I now know they’ve always been intertwined. My quest became to understand that relationship. I’m still a long way from finishing that quest.
The quest opened me to new experiences of the sacred, both in regards to spirituality and exploration of my sexuality and sexual expression. My first realization was that within the bounds of love, nothing sexual could be taboo as long as both parties consent to the experience, and no other parties are hurt. If I want to explore something untried, if Scott is okay with it, we do it. Some things we decide just are not for us. Others are. This freedom of sexual experience is only to be found within the confines of our relationship. We remain faithful to each other. Though, we have from time to time discussed the option of including another in our lovemaking.
Through the years our lovemaking has risen to an entirely new level when we intentionally invite God to be present to and with us. That is, when we prayerfully invite God’s Divine Presence to bless our lovemaking and to join with us in our lovemaking.
In my blog (http://scottneric.com/ontheroad) I have written about several experiences in my life in which I have known God’s presence, either as God or in the person of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. So, in my own heart, and in my own soul, I know what the ecstatic experience of the Divine is like.
However, there is one experience I have not written about elsewhere. It involves the intersection of the ecstatic with the erotic, an experience of Divine Presence unlike any other I’ve encountered.
Soon after I began silently inviting the Divine Presence to be with us during lovemaking, I noticed that both Scott and I became more aware of each other’s bodies and more focused on finding those areas that the other enjoyed having stimulated. One day, Scott and I took a lazy spring afternoon off from housework to, as we euphemistically phrase it, Play. With a capital P.
After some time in intimate exploration, I invited Scott to enter me. There are several possible positions for this form of lovemaking, but one or two are especially conducive to a more loving intimacy. Scott chose one of these. Scott wrapped me in his arms and I surrendered to the intimacy of the moment. I prayed, thanking God for God’s Presence, and for having brought Scott into my life.
As I prayed, an awareness of God’s Divine Presence flooded over me. I knew Jesus to be with us, joining with us in our lovemaking. Every one of my senses was heightened. I felt exquisitely the caress of hands, smelled a scent that was heady beyond belief. I heard the beating of Scott’s heart, my heart... another heart. And though my eyes were closed, it seemed that a soft diffuse light glowed just in front of me.
At the very moment that climax arrived, all else washed away except for an overpowering feeling of love unlike anything I have ever experienced. I felt wrapped in arms from both sides, my breath stopped for what seemed an eternity. Both Scott and I commented afterwards that our lovemaking had never before lasted such a long time.
Ever since that day, I’ve longed for more of those experiences. While I have felt God’s Divine Presence on numerous occasions during Scott’s and my lovemaking, none have ever equaled that one very special event in which time stood still.
Eric L. Hays-Strom has led a colorful life that includes living in Kenya as an exchange student and serving in the U.S. Army. He earned a Masters Degree in Catholic Life and Worship from St. Meinrad School of Theology in southern Indiana. He and his husband, Scott, live in Iowa.
P.S. A lively discussion of this post is also underway at:
Michael Bernard Kelly is also the author of Seduced by Grace: Contemporary spirituality, Gay experience and Christian faith.