I was at church camp the first time I slept under the stars. I’d slept in tents plenty of times, so I was used to the sounds and feel of nighttime.
I was excited about the prospect of sleeping without a roof over my head–until I got to the big meadow where we would be sleeping, scoped out a good spot, and looked up.
The vastness of a nighttime sky–uninterrupted by artificial light–speaks God’s grandeur to me in a way nothing else quite does.
Here I am, it says. The vastness you see here is just a small piece of all that I have created. I created a whole world, and I created you to stand here and be part of it. You, standing there beneath my great sky, shivering and wondering, are connected to me. I created. I create. I love. I am.
Big ideas about a big God.
But there I was, wondering if I had enough bug spray and thinking about where I would put my glasses while I slept and worrying about a raccoon walking on me and feeling just a little unprotected without the safety of a roof over my head. I had never slept outside before. I had always been in a house or a tent, so anything else felt wrong.
I felt so exposed, nervous, scared, and uncomfortable that I missed seeing the shooting stars God sent across His handiwork that night.
Eventually I fell asleep, and the next day I was excited to know that I’d slept under the stars even though I’d barely soaked in the actual experience of doing so.
~ ~ ~
Fast forward a few years to the summer I was a counselor at my beloved camp. We slept out under the stars a lot that summer. I became so accustomed to it that I completely lost my discomfort. In fact, during the weeks when I was on maintenance crew rather than in a tent with kids, I was often the one to suggest it. I had lost my discomfort and fear, and I looked forward to the nights when I could once again lie beneath God’s night sky and be amazed by what He’d done.
The following summer, I didn’t go to camp–but I had learned to love being outside at night so much that I slept on my parents’ deck every single night for ten weeks straight. Every night, I lay down and looked up and around and what God had wrought. The sky was limitless in height, yet it seemed to touch the ground at my level. I learned all the constellations and looked at them every night. The shooting stars became a beloved companion. I felt connected with God’s creation–and with God–in a way I had never experienced before.
Then one night, it rained and I had to go inside. I felt so oppressed being under a roof in the middle of summer.
It struck me how odd it was to be so frustrated by the very thing I had once thought a necessary part of sleeping. The manmade ceiling a few feet above my head was restrictive and oppressive compared to the limitless ceiling built by God.
I had craved a roof because it was what I was used to and because it was what I expected. When I finally let go and embraced the nighttime sky that had been created by God, I experienced freedom, joy, and connection.
~ ~ ~
We too often do the same thing with sex and sexuality. We think the idea sounds good in a theoretical sense—until we are there seeing the vastness of sexual possibility, at which point we freeze.
Accustomed to doing things in certain ways, we focus more on the small annoyances and getting things into place than we do on actually enjoying the experience.
God’s design of sex in marriage is vast. It lifts us up to the grandeur of God while keeping us grounded in the physical bodies that contain who we are.
God’s word tells us that sex belongs within a marriage with one husband and one wife—yet within that, the possibilities are nearly without limits. We have been given the marriage bed as the ultimate grown-up playground. What we do there connects and unites us, creates intimacy, and makes love. Marriage mirrors the relationship between Christ and the church. It is a great and wondrous mystery.
Sadly, though, we often restrict ourselves by trying to experience sex within guidelines constructed by us, not by God.
We experience discomfort, nervousness, and vulnerability, and instead of working past those feelings, we act as though our humanly built restrictions are actually from God.
When we choose to work past our discomfort and vulnerability to experience the vastness of God’s design for sex within marriage, we can learn to not only be comfortable but to embrace and invite the wild freedom of married sex.
The process of becoming comfortable isn’t always easy—but the experience of being comfortable once we get through the process is so wondrous.
When we choose not to work past our discomfort and vulnerability, we can continue to feel safe. We won’t get bitten by mosquitos. We don’t have to worry about our eye glasses getting stepped on or covered with condensation. We don’t have to think about the wildness that we might experience if we allow ourselves to learn to sleep under the stars.
We may feel safe—but we have no idea just how much we are oppressing ourselves.
When we allow ourselves to experience God’s vast and wondrous design for sex, we can feel connected with God and His creation in a truly awe-inspiring way.
When we allow ourselves to come out from our manmade restrictions to sleep under the vastness of God’s nighttime sky, we are inviting God into our hearts. We can experience freedom, joy, and connection.
And the shooting stars can become a beloved companion.
Image courtesy of Exsodus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net