I remember meeting Jesus once at sex camp. It wasn’t our first meeting, but an important one.
Everyday I walked up to a giant, beautiful, colorful painting of Jesus’s head, hair blowing in the wind. The massive painting hung on the wall of the Church where I was attending a week long retreat for women being treated for female sex addiction…what I like to call ‘Sex Camp.’
When I first saw the painting I was taken aback. Great art captures one that way. And the size, my God, it was huge. I said “well hello there Jesus.” In that moment he seemed so real with his piercing brown eyes bigger than my head.
In the course of the week, every time I passed it I’d say “Hi Jesus!” I’d try to say sweetly but somewhat sarcastically “it’s another great day at sex camp!” “How are you feeling about sex camp?” “Me?” “Oh, well I feel deep shame & loathing self-pity, so there’s that. I’d rather be on a cruise. No offense.”
I could not help but smile at this morning ritual. There was Jesus. His face so colorful, the painting as large as the wall felt much like his presence in my life, always in my face, pretty but comfortably hovering. I stopped to look at the painting and sit with the painting several times throughout the week. His head was made of every paint color the artist could think of which did not lean towards him having blond hair and blue eyes which pleased me to no end.
There was Jesus at sex camp, with this ominous happy smirk as if he was singing the tune of Mr. Rogers neighborhood. He was very welcoming. It did not surprise nor shame me that Jesus was here at sex camp. Where in the f–k else should Jesus be than at sex camp with a bunch of adulteress, whoring, cheating, slutty women whom the world views as hoes, thots, tramps, hood-rats & sluts that’s been ran through so many times we are found to be of the most heinous variety of women alive? The only Jesus I’ve every known is exactly the one who would show up for at a week long rehab for female sex addicts. And He showed up, in more ways than in a wall size painting. I have more stories of meeting Jesus at sex camp than I have time to write.
The painting stood as a beacon of hope for me that week, tethering me to the reality of His presence amidst the exposure of my deepest shame. If the painting had not been there what other symbols would I have grabbed onto? Every break, every morning, every meal, every evening I stopped to look at the grooves in his face, the bend of his cheekbone, the wave of his hair, the intensity of his stare. And each time, I said something. I always said something. “I’m sorry,” or “I’m ashamed,” or “I’m such a fuck-up,” or “why?” or “what’s going to happen?” or “what do you think about all this?” or “this is misery,” “forgive me,” or “hey” followed by a deep heavy sigh. The beauty of this painting is that His expression seemed to match my sentiment each time.
Once, during a break I sat there by Him on the floor. There were no audible words, just the tears, the heavy shame, the grief and the loss. His hair blowing in the wind, he remained calm and sweet. I felt comforted like maybe His imaginary painted arms reached out and rested on my shoulders as one would do when they are a perfectly painted empathetic Deity. I rested there in those imaginary arms and let the worries fall from my eyes into the worry lines of his face.
We sat and we cried for all that was lost, which at the time, felt like everything. And I do mean everything: divorce looming, custody in peril, job lost, housing in peril, a horribly dysfunctional romantic attachment while sitting in rehab for sex addiction. Surely this was rock bottom. I laid down there under Jesus’ big head with all my big problems and cried and cried and cried. The moments were healing moments, ones I’ll never forget.
I expected to meet Jesus at sex camp but I did not expect my healing to connect directly and so vividly with an amazing piece of art. But that’s Jesus isn’t it? Showing up where very few want to go with you, in unexpected ways, at unexpected times and whose healing is as unique as your issues.
*This is an excerpt from an e-book I’m working on, Dear God: Am I a Sex Addict?
If you or a loved one are in need of sex or love addiction resources or treatment, I’d highly recommend the services I used: Bethesda Workshops.
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3 thoughts on “Sitting with Jesus at Sex Camp”
Oh, Grace–this brought tears to my eyes. I also come from a family riddled through with sexual abuse. it didn’t happen to me, but I was close enough to it all that it f-d with my view of sex, too. And sometimes, I weep for what has been taken from me and especially from those who suffered more. Stolen joy, stolen peace, stolen innocence. The only antidote is art and beauty and I am so glad that is what you are creating with the shitty raw materials you were given. It’s not enough, but it’s something, and it is an act of courage and bravery to make art out of this stuff. I wish I could sit next to you under His watchful, loving eye and declare to each other that there is truly no shame for any of us anymore.
Thank you for being vulnerable about these struggles and about this particular experience. It resonates deeply, beyond the power of my words to express at the moment. But be assured that it also ministers.
I love the image that you posted with this blog. Where is it from, or what painting is it of? I’d like to find a print of it to purchase if possible. That is an image of Jesus I want to see every day.
“But that’s Jesus isn’t it? Showing up where very few want to go with you, in unexpected ways, at unexpected times and whose healing is as unique as your issues.” Yes, that’s Jesus! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m so glad you met the “real Jesus” who loves and welcomes with open arms, who listens and who lets us cry, shout, whatever we need to do. He really cares about all of us. Your description of “resting in His arms” is so poignant and beautiful! Blessings to you, dear Grace!