Is it a truth universally acknowledged that PHSE is one of the most useless and boring lessons on the school curriculum? For the most part I can’t remember what we learnt in those lessons (don’t take drugs…use deodorant???) however there is one lesson that has remained with me. In year 9 we were doing Sex Ed and our school nurse came to take the lesson. She asked us to stand on the left hand side of the room if we believed sex before marriage is wrong and the right hand side if we didn’t. I remember groaning inwardly as I guessed that pretty soon I’d be standing alone. Well in fact I didn’t find myself totally alone; my Muslim friend Aisha was there standing in solidarity whilst the rest of the class looked at us in disbelief!
I remember thinking indignantly “you don’t get it” but then on reflection I didn’t “get it” either. I had the conviction that sex was something reserved for marriage but really it was a conviction that was based primarily on an obedience to God. That I believed in obedience isn’t a bad thing in itself but there comes a point, usually in your teenage years, where you have to have see why you do and believe certain things in order for those beliefs and practices to become your own rather than your parent’s hand-me-downs. Going off to university I was still clinging on to that obedience but it was increasingly becoming a less sure footing for me. I loved God and I didn’t want to disobey Him but the devil was pulling that same trick with me as he did with Eve in the garden when he convinced her that God was making her miss out on something great out of spite. Without a strong defence I was starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t just go along with the crowd. “Why are you bothering to shut yourself off from what you should be enjoying? Come on! It’s normal…don’t be one of those weird religious people!”
When a friend of mine gave me a copy of Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West it was a watershed moment in my life. I was bowled over by the beauty of the Pope John Paul II’s presentation of the eternal truths about marriage, the sacraments, human love and the meaning of the body. Rather than trudging along in my dead obedience I felt like I had been let in on a great secret- the very secret of God Himself who is a dynamic interplay of love and whose greatest desire is to draw us into that great love. Because really that is what chastity is all about at it’s core: how do I love? In my pilgrimage here on earth, the school of love, how can I best prepare for that moment when I am drawn back to the source of Love that is my origin?
When you see how things should be, when you are given the vision towards which you are moving, the sacrifices that are needed to get there suddenly seem easy or, rather, if they are not easy they seem worth it. I think this is what Our Lord meant when He said, “I shall no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know the master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.” This is the freedom to which Christ calls us. This is not the so-called freedom of the libertine who is really a slave to desire, but the freedom to become active and creative participants in God’s plan of love for the world.