RISE managing editor Wendy Rush talks to LWC19 keynote speaker Renee Yam.
This year’s LifeWell Conference theme is ‘DEEP’ – getting real about the deep issues impacting our churches, communities and individual lives and finding restoration in Jesus’ name. This theme resonates strongly with Christian sexologist and counsellor Renee Yam.
“What a great theme! I love talking about the real and deep issues of our lives and sexuality is definitely one of them.
“Our sexuality is complex. There are many experiences in our lives that contribute to forming our understanding of sexuality. The way we were raised as a child, how love and affection was displayed in our families, how safe we were to express emotions and vulnerabilities, how we were taught about sex, not just the basics of the act of sex but about our anatomy and how our body works. Even our experience of becoming an adolescent and going through puberty, to past and current sexual experiences can all contribute to the way we understand our sexuality.
“I believe it’s important we look at what we believe and understand about sex, what our personal values, expectations and mindsets are about our sexuality, so that we can better understand ourselves and how we relate to others but also so we can explore how we can live out our sexuality in a healthy way.”
More to sex than just the act
It’s important to recognise the connection between our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being, says Renee, particularly when it comes to our sexuality.
“We are created sexual beings. Just like we are a physical being, a spiritual being, a soul being, we are sexual beings. There is more to sex than just the act. When we are sexually involved with someone, we bond with the person on a brain level.
“Sex is so much more than mere skin on skin – the Bible says. It’s about intimacy and being known by another and another knowing us. Sex is the most intimate and vulnerable act you can do with someone. When we connect with someone sexually, it’s a body, soul, spirit connection.
“How we think and feel about our sexuality, how comfortable we are with our body, how we express love and affection and what we believe about our faith is all connected to our sexual expression.
“I think it’s important for every person to understand their sexuality from a holistic perspective so that we can make informed and wise decisions about our sexuality and personal relationships.”
Why is it, then, that sex is often the one area of our lives where we are reluctant to seek help if we’re struggling?
“We live in a highly sexualised society. Sex is everywhere in advertising, movies and literature to just name a few. Yet sex is still very much a taboo subject. We often shy away from having conversations around sex because we are not comfortable talking about it, we are embarrassed or we don’t know what to say. When a topic is just not talked about openly, we can be confused about what is normal and what is healthy. And for people who want and need help, they don’t know where to go or who to speak to so they end up struggling in silence for years.”
Renee encourages each of us to look at this area of our lives so we can better understand ourselves.
“We have a need within all of us to be known by another, this is intimacy. Sex is just one form of intimacy.
“Sexuality is not always straight forward and at times can be confusing. The good thing is that we were not designed to do life alone. Some practical steps can be to reach out and speak to a trusted person in your life for wise counsel. Read and educate yourself on this topic, speak to other people who have gone through similar situations or speak to a professional specialised in this field. And of course, seek God out in His Word and through prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to you.”
Does the church have a role?
This is a sensitive area for churches to deal with but, according to Renee, the church has a role in helping people towards healthy and holistic sexuality.
“I believe the church needs to have a voice of wisdom and guidance that speaks to people of what a holistic and healthy sexuality looks like from Biblical truths. Today’s culture is framing many people’s understanding of sex and sexuality and we, as the church, need to point people to the One who created sex to understand the great plan and purpose behind the wonderful gift of sex.
“From my experience and conversations with pastors, leaders and people in church, sex is often not a topic that is talked about in church. It can tend to be the topic we avoid talking about or even a subject that is brushed over in pastoral conversations.
“In churches, we talk about how to be a good financial steward, we talk about how to build a godly family, we talk about how to build healthy marriages, we also need to be comfortable talking about sexuality. And not as a one-off conversation but an ongoing open dialogue that speaks to the relevant issues.
“I believe the church’s role is to become better educated and equipped to be able to have open conversations around sexual issues, to provide a safe non-judgemental place for people to reach out, to talk and ask questions and receive wisdom and support. When the church is educated and equipped to have conversations with people about this topic, I believe more people will be comfortable opening up and getting the support they need.”
When it comes to talking about restoration, Renee says that when we use the word ‘restoration’ it can be interpreted that people are broken.
“Most of the time people need education, direction and guidance to live out their sexuality in a God-honouring healthy way. And to do that, we need to be comfortable and confident to speak about it ourselves.
“I have spoken to many Bible college students about sex and the consistent feedback I hear is that they have never had anyone in church talk to them about sex.
“In my youth and young adults ministry days, the topic of sex and relationships was talked about once a year. People walked away from these nights hungry to know more, to understand themselves more, to understand God’s way more. They wanted more than just a once a year opportunity to talk about this topic.
“Even in pre-marriage counselling with engaged couples, the topic of sex can be limited. There may be a brief discussion around contraception or the honeymoon but for some people the topic is completely brushed over and avoided. It’s a sad thing because there is so much more we can be talking about to set people up for healthy sexual intimacy in their marriages.
“In today’s society we, as the church, can’t avoid the subject. We need to tackle it head on, give people practical guidance, not just scripture. My years of counselling and conversations with people about sex have proven the necessity of education and equipping people. People want practical advice, they want godly wisdom, they want to learn and understand more. I believe the church can meet this need. When our churches are equipped with healthy sex education founded on biblical principles, they will be empowered to have helpful conversations around sexuality that will release people to live out their personal sexuality in a God honouring way, the way God intended it.”
Renee is looking forward to coming to LifeWell Conference 2019 and aims to equip people to develop a deeper understanding of God’s plan for sex and empower them to live a healthy and godly sexuality. See more about LWC19 and how to register: www.lifewellconference.com.au
She is passionate about educating and equipping people on healthy sex and sexuality. She believes our sexuality is holistic and she is passionate about helping people understand the whole story of sex.
Renee works with people from all different backgrounds, religions, ages and demographics. She has a Christian faith and can work from a Christian based values approach for individuals or couples seeking this counselling framework. She believes each person has intrinsic value and desires to draw out people’s strengths and potential within them.
Find out more about Renee at: www.sexthewholestory.com.au