When it comes to sexuality, our culture encourages us to explore. We’re told to try things out to find who we are and what makes us happy. Of course, we’re not usually told this explicitly, but we’re told it by TV shows and films which show people exploring their sexuality in this way and by celebrities and vloggers who talk about their own experiences. Sexuality, we’re told, is something to be explored.
But I’m not so sure about this. True, there’s a sense in which some of us might take some time to fully understand our romantic and sexual desires. In my early teens, it took me several years to realise I’m same-sex attracted. I’d had a very sheltered Christian upbringing and the world was a very different place in the early 2000s; I didn’t have much of a concept that some people are attracted to the same sex. It took me time to recognise what I was experiencing and what that meant.
But our culture’s concept of exploring sexuality is quite different, and it points us in completely the wrong direction. We’re encouraged to explore our sexuality in order to find who we really are – are we straight or gay or bi or asexual? But this isn’t very helpful, because our sexuality isn’t really who we are. In fact, it’s a pretty terrible way to find our identity.
Exploring our sexuality is also about finding what makes us happy. It makes sex about us, turning us in on ourself to focus on our own wants and pleasure and satisfaction. But this isn’t what sex is meant to be about. In God’s plan, sex is part of a lifelong union of self-giving. The focus in sex shouldn’t be on us but on our spouse; it’s about their wants and pleasure and satisfaction.
I think a better concept than exploring is stewarding. To steward is to make good and responsible use of something that has been entrusted to us. For example, if someone gave me a large sum of money to look after, I might seek to steward it well by keeping it safely in a savings account or investing it somewhere that offered a good return.
God doesn’t call us to explore our sexuality but to steward it.
God doesn’t call us to explore our sexuality but to steward it. For each of us, our sexuality is a good gift from God which needs to be used in the best way possible.
Stewarding our sexuality well is linked to who we really are – not someone who is gay or bi or straight, but someone who is created in God’s image and, for followers of Jesus, someone who is a child of God. We don’t explore our sexuality to find who we are. We steward our sexuality as an outworking of who we are.
And stewarding our sexuality helps us to view sex rightly. We are not exploring to find what makes us most happy. We are stewarding to use the gift God has given us to benefit our spouse, a reminder of Jesus’ self-giving love for us. Or for those of us who aren’t married, stewarding our sexuality by not engaging in sex and romantic relationships reminds us of our eternal destiny, when none of us will be married or having sex, because all God’s people will be enjoying what marriage and sex were always meant to point us to.
So, do we need to explore our sexuality? I don’t think so. But there is a right way to handle our sexuality: not to explore but to steward.