This integration reflection, this conclusion, this way of life that I keep pressing into, keep writing about, keep talking about whenever I can—it came out of my own story. It came out of wounds I’ve carried for years and out of a desire in my mom-heart to tell my children a better, truer, more whole story.
It came from observing young women, and young men, struggle to behave properly and then feel perpetually defeated. It came from listening to stories of single women who had kept all of the purity rules while waiting for a husband. It came from listening to those same women living on their own and learning what it means to be whole women who are not simply pure bodies, but vibrant minds and souls of great value to the Kingdom of God.
It came from imagining a better way to talk about sex and sexuality to young people that focused on more than good or bad behaviors. And I believed in my core that a more complete conversation was available.
It came from being a mom to daughters. As they talked to me when they were growing and changing, I listened and worked to listen better. I learned to hear them without filtering through my own story, and I learned that they were growing into whole people. They were young women who wanted to accomplish goals and be independent. Not that getting married wasn’t in the hope chest, but they wanted to do and be many things that required the whole of themselves, apart from marital status. I wanted them to feel confident and strong, in their core, because they were made in the image of God.
It came from being a mom to a son. Beginning with recognizing how sensitive he was as a little boy, and noticing the temptation of adults to tell him to toughen up. As often as I could, I dispelled that man-up myth, and I learned to pay attention to his emotions as much as his machismo. In his growing, moving from little boy to pre-adolescent, he became uncomfortable in his body and started comparing himself to his friends with faster metabolisms and leaner builds. I learned that a physique comparison motif that we assign to females affects everyone.
It came from wanting to view young males as whole people. It came from a desire to stop speaking the normal expectations around “boys will be boys.” I wanted to cease living in fear and projections, of the objectification of young men. Because that’s what we do when we explain it with “typical male” language, we make them objects, place them into a prescribed format that is damaging. The narrative where we note the bulk of their manhood identifiers as primarily porn-watching, porn-addicted masturbatory machines will keep young men bound, will keep them separated from their bodies, will perpetuate toxicity.
My integration reflection is not specifically about gender similarities and differences in terms of sex and sexuality, though I believe it matters. I recognize that normal adolescent behaviors are real, that testosterone and estrogen and other hormones surges in young bodies can make a mess. No shortage of information about these differences are at our disposal.
I’m simply telling you how I got here, how I got to this integration ground and why I stand on it. It came from a desire for the people of God to see themselves as whole people. Mind. Body. Soul.
When my body was in crisis some years back, if I learned anything at all, I learned that it is all connected. What I eat is connected to how I eliminate, how I feel, how my internal systems work or don’t. My gut is connected to my brains is connected to my breathing is connected to my blood is connected to oxygen levels in my body is connected to every single system and cell.
If it matters how I am wonderfully and fearfully made in my body, then my body is not bad. If it matters that my body works, and my body is what holds the soul of me, holds my mind, then my body matters as much as my mind and my soul.
More pointedly, if it matters that Jesus came as a human—as Paul writes to the church of Philippi—that Jesus gave up his divine privilege and was born as a human being, then my whole humanity matters. If the Gospel writer John explains that the Word became human, then our whole humanity matters.
If Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, if that is central to our faith, then our whole, integrated humanity matters. Mind, body, soul. All of it. And that is part of the very good Gospel I want to keep telling.