Does an alarm go off in your head when your child is trying to pull one over on you? One of my closest childhood friends and I were just kids when she told me that she could tell if I wasn’t being truthful because my nostrils would flare. I was so bummed that my nose(of all things)gave me away! My own kids have tells that I won’t make public, but I know them when I see them. I can actually picture it: the particular expression on each one’s face when something’s up, the way posture changes. Seriously, take a minute and visualize the signs that give it away in your kids, a child you know, or a friend. Now visualize someone close to you, so thrilled and excited or in awe that it is written all over his or her face. My husband’s face breaks into total joy with his eyes crinkling, his shoulders rising up and his mouth opening for a spontaneous laugh when he finds something really funny. I can absolutely picture him even as I type this. The body communicates in its own language!
There are moments my daughter talks and her body sends a different message. In these cases, I tend to pay more attention to her body language and recognize that something is out of sync. If a client is speaking in my therapy room, I also observe any body language. We all listen to people on two different planes. We listen to what is being said, and we monitor what’s being said as it is expressed through the body. In the instances that there is a disparity between the verbal story and what is visibly expressed through the body, we might hesitate to take it at face value. We hesitate even in a case when the something being said is positive or when that which is displayed through the body seems good. Why would this make us uncomfortable or wary? In THE conversation Workshop, Linda Noble says something that I love, “This was God’s intention from the beginning – that our bodies and our voices would speak in sync with His design. We are whole persons – my body cannot be separated from my person.” It seems that we inherently know this to be true from the way that we as body-selves are vigilant (in some contexts more than others) to gauge whether the message of the body and the voice are in unison.
The body has a language that is just as much a part of our whole person as our voice. We and our kids flourish when the language of our body is in sync with what we speak with our voice. As parents or mentors to youth, this idea that our body speaks a language has numerous implications for kids of any age. To specifically build upon the last blog, we will suggest here that since the body speaks a language that is designed to be in sync with what we say, parents and mentors can provide profound answers to the questions, “How far is too far?” and “Why does it matter if I have sex before marriage?” Yes, if you’ve kept up with THE conversation’s blogs(if not, it is so helpful to read previous posts!), these questions can be addressed with concepts we’ve already covered such as the embodied self is priceless and the body and the person cannot be separated. But most recently we’ve been talking about the marriage covenant. Suddenly marriage is so much more than just a piece of paper. And now, sex is so much more than just a physical act that can occur in or outside of marriage.
Sex is the physical and visible sign in the marriage covenant that completes the covenantal vows through physically and visibly expressing what is spoken in the marriage ceremony before God and others.“I give myself totally, freely, and only to you. I am entering into union with you until death do us part” (Christopher West). (If you are giving “the talk” or working with kids, please don’t hesitate to use the word covenant. It’s the only language that we have that fully and accurately depicts biblical marriage.) The voice speaks the vows, and then the body speaks the vows. How could this vision of sex change your conversations about sex and marriage? One example that we have borrowed from Christopher West illustrates the meaning of the language of the body by profoundly pointing out that every time a married couple has sex, they are restating or renewing their wedding vows.
What occurs in a sexual encounter that is not preceded by a covenantal promise? My voice and my body are saying two different things. If this is new for you, please know it was new to me too when I began to understand this as a part of Theology of the Body (Pope John Paul II). If this brings up any challenging thoughts or feelings, please know there is no judgment here. That’s not what this is about. We are simply inviting you at this moment to consider sex in light of the fact that the body has a language, and that as per our design, we flourish when our body and our voice speak in concert.
This goes for all of us: single or married, children or adults – my body and my person are inseparable and contribute to the flourishing of others and myself when they speak in agreement as one. For conversations with kids, this means that if the covenantal vows have been spoken along the lines of, “I give myself totally, freely, and only to you. I am entering into union with you until death do us part,” then the body affirms and seals these words when two embodied persons give themselves physically to each other totally, freely and exclusively, entering into complete union together until death do they part. In contrast, when the body speaks a covenantal message that contradicts words spoken(or not), this is damaging to self and to the other in that it is an attempt to separate the body from the person because it communicates two conflicting messages.
Are you curious about how to incorporate the language of the body and what we’ve introduced in this blog into the way you talk about sex and bodies with kids? An excerpt from THE conversation Workshop syllabus provides a great talking point that is helpful here: “Because we are whole persons, our body-selves speak through our actions. When our bodies speak something different than our voices, there is confusion, hurt and disappointment.” The concept of the language of the body is most helpful when introduced long before any conversation about sex. On the other hand, if you’ve already had “the talk” and would like to go back and use the language of the body to provide further clarity and depth to the meaning of sex, this talking point helps create the context for the rest of your conversation.
Work at a church or homeschool? Wonderful lessons in our “I am a Gift” curriculum can further help you to talk about what the body speaks and how to ages 2-4years old through 6thgrade.