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Pleasure is complicated for me, but need it always be so?

I’ve been abstaining from this blog while trying to finish a manuscript, which has felt a bit like a magnum-opus for me–a feminist with a forgiveness problem (though not the one you assume), a conscious feminine theologian, and a preacher’s wife finally naming what she needs to name for herself about faith, life in community, and Godde as Mysterious Companion Who never lets us go. It will forefront the renewing trinitarian work of Cynthia Bourgeault and Sarah Coakley, as they are two elder-contemplative-scholars who have engaged my own root tradition deeply, if coincidently (?), from a woman’s body. They don’t forefront that fact, but it’s significant for me.

This morning, however, I find myself strangely warmed, leaning back into this space for a little less purposeful approach to what is seemingly confounding me: desire as the spark of Godde palpable within me, my body, as pleasure. There is inconceivably no more jarring proposition for me in my ancestral-marital lineages.

It arose because Bourgeault reframes Trinity as process more than Persons, rooted in a concentration of desire unfolding itself into created form as love, driveshaft of all creation. Coakley, independent of Bourgeault, arrives at an ontology of desire through which God as Trinity courses through our very frame–created by Creator, desire intensified by Spirit, refined through purgation toward Christlike expressions of beginner’s mind and devoted service of others.

So why does pleasure confound me (us?) so?

First, I notice even the articulation of the word brings a readiness to defend against accusations of hedonism, lack of self-control, a licentiousness of life scorned by virtuous folk. There seems to be a presumption that pleasure disregards communal norms, threatens the good civic or religious life.

Personally, I’ve become aware that pleasure always brings tears for me. I used to think this was a contemplative’s gift of tears. Maybe it is that, too. Closer into the truth of my life, my story? Pleasure is inextricably bound up with grief, an unresolved (unacceptable?) loss

My first introduction to deeply embodied pleasure was cloaked in shock, fear, then shame. I experienced the beautiful responsiveness of my own body when I was six years old, somehow knowing simultaneously that I had to hide it to belong, most especially in my family.  Blessedly, I was strong enough to not dissociate from it entirely. This meant, however, that it went underground, into utter isolation until I was in my late twenties.

But how wounded is that, when pleasure cannot be shared openly, intimately, with another sentient being?


Rooted as I am in congregational service and my beloved ancestral-marital lineages, pleasure remains unavoidably tangled in the confines and echoes of a seductive fear, the sacrifices I (we) made as youth simply to belong, and an excruciating loss resulting (ironically) in a deadening of feeling.

Which had been fine, if tragic…

…until two elder-scholars argued convincingly that desire is Godde’s spark within each of us, palpable in pleasure. 

Feel my conundrum? 

Fuuuuuuccccckkkkkk… (she says with an impish giggle).

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1 Comment

May 15

I love the exploration. Moves me in mine. A bow. Tenneson


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