Christians have a reputation for being uncomfortable with sensuality and desire. Unfortunately, it’s not an entirely undeserved reputation. From Paul’s admonition that only those who are being consumed with uncontrollable passion should marry – and it’s easy to forget that as he said this he thought the end of the world was coming any minute – to Augustine’s projection of his own lack of self-control onto the theological world, too many Christian theologians have treated our bodies, desire, and sexuality as something dangerous and illicit.

Sexual desire is powerful, yes. But illicit? I think we confuse the two. Because desire is powerful we make rules and laws to encourage care. Fine. But we cross the border when we declare desire inherently wrong and our bodies objects of suspicion. Which is part of what I love about David Romtvedt’s poem “Still,” with its tender depiction of parents stealing moments of intimacy when the children are asleep and house still. The lines, “We pull our shirts over our heads / and toss them to the floor / and the only thing grotesque / is the space through which / we stumble each night” remind us that physical intimacy is one way – one of the more powerful ways – by which we seek to connect with each other and remind ourselves that we are not alone.

It occurs to me as we approach this week the Church calls “holy,” that one of things we give thanks for is that Jesus came to us in the flesh – flesh like ours – to redeem in us in, not from, the flesh, that we may receive each other back again not as objects to be possessed but as persons to enjoy, cherish, and take delight in. And as I read this poem celebrating just this kind of delight and communion, I imagined I heard the God who created us as sensual beings say once more, “It is good.”


The children are sleeping
and the cows and chickens are sleeping,
and the grass itself
is sleeping.
The machines are off
and the neighbor’s lights,
a half mile away, are out,
and the moon is hanging
like a powdered face
in a darkened room,
and the snow
is shining under stars
the way we are shining here
in our cold skins
under warm quilts.
We pull our shirts over our heads
and toss them to the floor
and the only thing grotesque
is the space through which
we stumble each night.
I roll to you and put my hand
on your skin. You shiver and smile,
“Cold. But not too cold.
Some cold I like.”
And draw my hand closer.
I pull it away
and jam it in my armpit,
and while I wait for the blood
I look at you, admire your face,
your neck and breasts,
your belly and thighs,
the shadowy double of you
thrown by candlelight to the wall—
There is no season, no grass
gone brown, no cold,
and no one to say we are anything
but beautiful, swimming together
across the wide channel of night.

David Romtvedt, Some Church.