Sex, God, and Our Longing for Intimacy (Part 1)

Since their debut album Parachutes appeared twelve years ago, Coldplay has arguably become one of the most popular recording artists in the world. The band is well known for their lyrically rich ballads that drip with emotional content, as evidenced by the following excerpt from “A Message”:


My song is love
My song is love, unknown
But I’m on fire for you, clearly
You don’t have to be alone
You don’t have to be on your own


And I’m not gonna take it back
Oh I’m not gonna say I don’t mean that
You’re the target that I’m aiming at
And I’m nothing on my own
Got to get that message home


And I’m not gonna stand and wait
Not gonna be there until it’s much too late
On a platform I’m gonna stand and say
That I’m nothing on my own
And I love you, please come home


Driving the singer’s heartfelt plea to his former lover is a steady, pulsing rhythm, which colors his petition to reunite with her with a sense of urgent, almost impatient longing. He yearns to know again her love and to experience anew the intimacy that they once shared.


The drive toward intimacy is universal because we are relational creatures. Spirituality is the expression of our innate desire to connect with God in such an intimate relationship. While the variation within and plurality of the world’s faiths suggest that we do not intuitively know the identity of the Divine, the pervasive presence of spirituality within the world suggests that not only that we recognize in our experience evidence of a Presence beyond ourselves but that we also deeply long to be in relationship with that Being. Christians believe that that Being is Yahweh, the Creator.


Only in relationship with the Creator do we know ourselves as created beings who are radically dependent upon God. Martin Buber, renowned Jewish philosopher and theologian, notes that this “feeling of dependence” does not, however, diminish our agency or uniqueness in our relationship with God. Indeed, Buber observes that in prayer, worship, and sacrifice we creatively interact with God, who knows and values our expressed uniqueness. For instance, God was pleased with Abel, a shepherd who offered in sacrifice the finest of his flock and therefore gave everything he had in worship.


Today, when we give our all while using our unique gifts—whether it’s playing an instrument in worship, opening our doors in warm hospitality, or exercising administrative skills—God recognizes and celebrates our expressed individuality, and we come to know ourselves more fully as we express ourselves. In connecting with God, then, we discover who we are as we reach out for intimacy in our own unique ways of worshipping, praying, and sacrificial living.


To summarize, we all want to know and to be known in the context of intimate relationships with friends and family. When we uniquely express our desire for intimacy in relationship with God, we call it spirituality. We’ll soon consider how our innate drive for intimacy plays out in sexuality, but first, I invite you to consider your spirituality. What are your unique characteristics and talents, and how do you bring them into your spirituality? 

Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

  • Hi Jeremy. I will add to the discussion. Your definition of spirituality reminded me of something I wrote in a paper in grad school on spiritual formation. “Spirituality in a general sense refers to a person’s inner journey to discover the essence of his or her being, or the deepest values and meanings by which we live. It is an experience of connectedness with a larger reality which would include ourselves, others and humanity. It is the sense that there is something more than we can ever fully know.
    Spirituality is usually associated with religion. Religion is an expression of spirituality; however spirituality can occur outside of religion. I consider myself in the growing group of people who define themselves as spiritual but not religious and believe there are many different spiritual paths. This kind of spirituality is open to new ideas, and more pluralistic than the doctrinal faiths of organized religions. It does not rely solely on ancient scriptures and practices.” You seem to be talking only to those of the Christian tradition. Are you saying that all are radically dependent on God even if they don’t believe in God? Is it really only in connecting with God that we can truly discover ourselves?
    I believe spirituality to be more about practice than a set of right beliefs. More from the paper.
    “If spirituality is understood as the development of inner peace as the foundation for happiness, then spiritual practice of some kind is essential for personal well being. Over the past thirty years, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat have studied spiritual practices common in all world religions. Following are some of the spiritual practices they have identified that resonate with me.
    Attention is also known as mindfulness or awareness. We must pay attention not to risk missing critical elements of the spiritual life — moments of grace, opportunities for gratitude, evidence of our connections to others, signs of the presence of Spirit. Being present in the spiritual life means being here now, living in the moment with full awareness. This means recognizing that God is in our everyday interactions. We don’t hold onto regrets or fantasize about the future. Compassion is a feeling deep within us and it is also a way of acting — being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf. Jesus is an exemplar of compassion, and it is the central ethical virtue of Christianity. The practice of connections reinforces holistic thinking and our awareness of how the spiritual, emotional, and mental aspects of our being nourish each other. The spiritual practice of gratitude is a state of mind and a way of life. To learn to be thankful for all experiences, both joyful and painful. Doing justice is a central imperative in all religions emphasizing right relationships within communities, recognizing the equality and dignity of all. It assumes that none of us is free until all of us are. Listening enables us to tune in to others and our inner voices of intuition and conscience. Listening leads to a deepening of relationships and a greater sense of self for all parties. Openness is an ability to be receptive to new possibilities, without prejudging them. It is important in the spiritual life to keep an open mind, open to ideas, experiences, people, the world, and the Sacred. The spiritual practice of you challenges us to become all we are meant to be as God’s creation. The ideal is to live with both our strengths and our weaknesses. The spiritual practice of you is the prescription to help you find and express your authentic self. (1998, Brussat)”

    March 16, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.