by Shaina Bolin
Over the summer, I participated in a ladies book group through my faith community, reading Rob Bell’s SexGod. I was encouraged to do this because I struggle with my sexuality, but also because engaging in struggles within a community is way easier than slogging through them on my own. This gave me an opportunity to air out the things I was thinking, feeling, and questioning as I read SexGod, and to have some interesting discussions from several perspectives.
I came to this book with a lot of questions to which I demanded answers. So imagine my frustration when I ended up with more questions than when I began. It’s not Rob Bell’s fault; my frustrations are my own. But I’m not writing this to talk about that.
I’m also not reviewing the book, per se; I really just want to talk about one chapter of this book that most impacted me: chapter 6 entitled Worth Dying For.
Each chapter in this book covers a lot; this one is no different. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but in chapter 6, Bell talks about submission from a biblical standpoint, spinning it in a completely new light, very different from the sexist, women-degrading way I’ve always thought of and hence, rebelled against. He talks about the Song of Songs, giving fresh insights to the relationship between the man and woman featured in that epic story of biblical erotica. And, at one point in this chapter, Bell writes,
“You are worth dying for.
Your worth does not come from your body, your mind, your work, what you produce, what you put out, how much money you make.
Your worth does not come from whether or not you have a man.
Your worth does not come from whether or not men notice you.
You have inestimable worth that comes from your creator.
You will continue to be tempted in a thousand different ways not to believe this.
The temptation will be to go searching for your worth and validity from places other than your creator.”
Fuck yes. We would all do good to replace the necessary words that need replacing in order to apply this to ourselves, because it’s true for all of us. And obviously, this is not an idea that is new or original, but it seems impossible to remember most of the time.
I have low self-confidence. I’m in the process of exploring why this is, where this comes from, because I am obviously awesome. People tell me so; I just don’t believe it most of the time. Sometimes I pay so much attention to what I assume other people must think about me that I tie strings—no, big heavy ropes—from those things to my self-worth, and my confidence tanks. Suddenly, I believe there is nothing good about myself, nothing worth loving or even liking. Once that happens, I start to engage in the worst kind of negative self talk. And by the time I’ve already slid halfway down that slippery slope, I know I’m clearly heading into the landfill of bad choices.
See how messed up this is? See how this is something I do to myself? See how it’s based on my own assumptions and not always on reality? See how it snowballs? And it happens fast…sometimes so fast that it’s impossible to rein in before it’s taking over everything.
What I wanted to get out of SexGod were answers about my sexuality, and as Bell repeats over and over, “this is about that.” Sexuality isn’t a stand-alone identifier for anyone. My sexuality is connected to my spirituality, and also to my creativity, and in a huge way it’s connected to my body image, my self-esteem, my self-confidence, my sense of self-worth.
I don’t know when as a little girl I started believing that I wasn’t worth anything or that I didn’t deserve the best of everything. I don’t know when I started accepting that I could just come in last for myself and that that didn’t matter. But it’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to learn better.
Bell’s impactful words that I shared above are typed out and hanging above my workspace, and I read them everyday. I read them when I’m writing and I lose my train of thought or can’t think of anything to say. I read them when I’m crying and want to eat those feelings as quickly as possible. I read them when I’m feeling dejected and want to get drunk and do something stupid. I read them every time the phone doesn’t ring with a job offer or when I receive an email saying that a potential employer wants to go a different way. I read them every time I believe that I’m fat, ugly, and will be alone forever.
These words have opened up self-awareness of something in me that isn’t aligned with who God has created me to be. They’ve ended up being a gold nugget mined out of growing frustration with the unhealthy patterns of my life and a desire to break them.
I feel like if I read them enough, I can quickly remember where my worth comes from and draw confidence from that, rather than beating myself up and falsely believing that it comes from someone/something else.
I’m worth dying for. In fact, we all are. In fact, someone already took care of that part for us.
So, SexGod ended up not answering my questions about sexuality, but instead, led me somewhere I desperately needed to go in order to become sexually healthy. This is about that, and it’s a starting point. Here I go…