Lent, Sex, and Noticing God

Brad M. Griffin

It’s Ash Wednesday. One of my favorite days of the year. 

Not because I’m morbid, but because I’ve grown to love the way Lent invites us to notice God in different ways. In particular through disciplines of abstinence. We often like making fun of this—like Twitter’s top 100 list of things people give up for Lent—but fasting is deeply rooted in Christian and Jewish history. 

Which brings us to sex. It made the top 10 list of what folks gave up for Lent last year, trumped by Facebook, alcohol, Twitter itself, and of course chocolate (the favorite American default for Lent). And this year, Valentines Day is the day after Ash Wednesday. Given youth ministries’ propensity to do “Love, sex, and dating” series during February, I’m wondering how this year’s placement might instruct our approach to both Lent and sexuality. 

Both might be opportunities to notice God more. This is precisely the theme behind our free 8-week curriculum Sticky Faith Every Day. Is it possible there are endless ways God is trying to capture our attention? Is it possible that our lives are so filled with distraction that we’re often missing something deeper God wants us to notice? We think the answer is yes. And perhaps human sexuality is one of the ways God wants us to notice and celebrate his goodness, creativity, and wonder. 

Perhaps rather than guilt, shame, or close doors to young people’s experiences of wrestling with their sexuality, we can name and embrace it as part of the complex nature of God’s revelation to us. 

That doesn’t mean we gloss over the brokenness that accompanies our sexuality, or the ways teenagers and adults misuse, misunderstand, and abuse sex. Not to mention how frustrating it can be to be young, unmarried, and attempting to honor God with your body. But young people often hear these messages so strongly from the church that to suggest we might actually notice God through our sexuality seems almost absurd. 

So maybe rather than letting Lent and Valentine’s Day seem worlds apart, we can help the teenagers in our lives make peace with both this week. Even if they’re giving up chocolate.



Don’t miss out on the free curriculum we designed to be used alongside Lent. And if you’re using it, be sure to share your ideas with us!

Published Feb 13, 2013
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Associate Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is also the coauthor of Sticky Faith ​and Deep Justice Journeys. A native Kentucky youth pastor, Brad now lives in Southern California with his wife Missy and their three children.

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