Guest Post Written by N.H.A.
I’m in my office working at my desk when my wife peeks in to tell me she is leaving for her meeting. She looks beautiful… her outfit, hair, eyes, smile. And her perfume – she even smells beautiful. She tells me that she’ll be back in four or five hours. I give her a kiss and tell her I hope her meeting goes well.
I turn back to my computer. I am working on a project that I’ve put off for a few weeks because I know it’s going to be a hassle, as I am unfamiliar with the new software. I am searching for tutorials to get me acquainted and up and running. There are many other things I’d rather be doing.
I muddle through a few instructional videos on the software site. Ugh – too technical. I try YouTube. Better, but they don’t show me the very first steps of using the software. After an hour of searching, I still don’t know how to use the software to begin my project. I’m frustrated.
I am in a dangerous place. No, I don’t live in a war zone. I am in my home in a safe neighborhood. It’s my mind that is in a dangerous spot. I am alone. I am frustrated with my lack of success on a project that seems overwhelming. I want to feel some success and instead, I am feeling failure and angst, even on a small scale.
Have you watched a movie lately where the protagonist wanders into the wrong place, be it a bad neighborhood or the wrong people? You and I are thinking (or saying aloud), “Get outta there! You don’t want to be there or with those people! Get back to safety!” Instead, the tension builds as our protagonist unwittingly goes deeper and deeper into a bad situation. Meanwhile, we wonder who is going to rescue them or when they’re going to recognize the danger.
That’s me right now. This is where trouble usually starts – when I am feeling inadequate, frustrated, or bored. Instead of making headway on my project, I am feeling like I am in a quagmire, all enthusiasm gone.
And just like that, a thought…no, a feeling, enters my mind. Sexual feelings for my wife. I’d like to be intimate with her. She looked beautiful when she left. I desire her now. I start to feel a stirring in my loins and soon after my mind is twittering with energy. I am not thinking straight now; the computer project? What project? I want sex. My wife isn’t here. Okay, then, I want to feel sexual. The buzz in my loins and my mind is increasing rapidly.
I’ve been down this road too many times, and I hate to admit, too often I have fed the desire to feel sexual by taking care of business on my own. Masturbation. Neurochemicals setting my body aflame with intense anticipation, followed by a quick release and then…emptiness, regret, and/or shame.
Failure. Failure to truly satisfy, failure to see through the emotional, ignoring rational warnings. Failure.
I don’t want a repeat of that, so I shake my head and think, “No, don’t go there,” and I try instead to turn my focus back to my computer screen and my project.
Unfortunately, my body is not so easily dissuaded, especially when the alternative is a project that provides no immediately foreseeable satisfaction of accomplishment. My body wants satisfaction now.
The battle is on.
A portion of my brain, having joined the burning in my loins longing for that pleasurable rush, is hell-bent on getting immediate sexual satisfaction with or without my wife’s participation. Yet, another part of my mind is raising a flag of caution, reminding me that giving in will cheapen me and my words.
What’s that? Cheapen you? How so?
Good question. However, my brain and loins are approaching an almost rabid state, insisting that nothing but immediate gratification will bring calm. It’s almost like an angry mob pounding at the door, voices rising in intensity, drowning out the question. We want to feel exotically good…NOW.
Yet, the calmer side of my mind quietly answers the question. You’ll feel cheap because you gave in to the emotional and physical desires rather than keep your word to yourself, your wife, your children, and to your invisible, seemingly faraway God. You promised to “take the higher road” and have only your wife fulfill your sexual desires. You have acknowledged that satisfying your sexual urges apart from your wife is a selfish, narcissistic act. You also have come to wonder if perhaps your secret actions, sins, unwittingly get passed on to your children. You have recognized how dissatisfied you feel after satisfying yourself, that the pleasure doesn’t even compare to the intimacy you and your bride enjoy together. You’ve admitted that you become less interested in your bride when you’re satisfying our personal “need.” And not surprisingly, she has questioned your lack of affection for her during such times. When you give in, you feel cheap because you have not stood strong and kept your promises. You feel cheap because you’ve not pursued integrity, that virtue you so esteem in others.
The mob has quieted just a bit as I considered my reasons to not give in. Why do I consider the screaming, demanding mob when so many times I regret doing so? Why when I wholeheartedly believe the benefits of reserving myself for my wife and her pleasure? It is indeed a battle. Give even an inch of consideration for acquiescing to the mob and it takes a mile, and then some.
I want it. I want the pleasure. I want the release. I rationalize: Oh, just go do it. You’ll be able to focus on your work better when you’re done. Besides, it’ll prolong your stamina for your wife’s pleasure later on…
Oh, this raging battle! I am beginning to sense the distinction between the two sides: there is Passion, and there is Reason. Passion is intense, demanding, singular – and momentary-focused, as if stomping its feet, quivering with increasing rage, shouting, I. Want. This. Now! Give me what I want!
Reason is quiet and solid, as if it is sitting in a chair, calm and patient amidst the chaos, waiting for the opportunity to speak. It is not quivering, but composed. Its power is not in loudness and rash decisions, but in truth, in the sane thoughts and decisions made in sobriety. Quietly, Reason beckons me: Remember how you have felt after giving in before. Remember the good that happens when you focus on loving others. Do you recall the joy you always feel? The stability and sureness of your life and direction you’ve felt then?
I get up and find a distraction from the chaos to buy some time. Although I don’t feel like it, I go to the kitchen for something to eat. I sip cold water. I step outside and walk a bit, observing the trees, the birds. I recall a verse about God taking care of them. The screaming demands fade quickly, the rational, observant mind now able to be heard. Yes, this is what I want. Calm sanity. I don’t need to give in. In my mind, I revisit the reasons not to give in. Away from the torrent of passion, I can think in a balanced manner of the pros and cons of the choice before me – to listen to my body or to my mind. “I buffet my body, training it…” “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
I have learned the benefit of stepping away to gain rational thought in a hectic situation. Weighing the consequences of immediate gratification versus delayed gratification is eye-opening. Time and again I have regretted being selfishly impulsive. Conversely, how often I am thankful for the results of choosing to forego the mob and instead pressing on towards weightier, higher goals. I recall reading David Martyn Lloyd Jones’ wise words regarding the power of choosing to live by long-term goals. I had exercised my will by stepping away from the place where I could carry out my sexual urge. And now, of clear mind, I was exercising my will again to walk one way and not the other.
I have found impulsive sexual needs to be similar to eating. Psychologists say that both sexual and hunger urges follow similar brain pathways. When I eat whatever I fancy, I pay for it with unwanted weight gain and reduced stamina, not to mention diminished long-term health. However, when I eat with my health in mind, I have to judiciously choose what to eat, and granted, oftentimes I forego foods that I know are not good for my health. It is a thousand times easier to gain ten pounds than it is to lose ten pounds! Having fought that fight, I deem it’s not worth giving in to the appetite of the moment. And it also gets easier to abstain from the taste mob that screams when it sees a delish snack or meal. Lastly, I tend to enjoy the foods I do eat when I eat with discretion.
The same goes for sex. The benefits of a thriving sexual relationship with my wife blow away the shallow pleasures of going it alone.
My mind can be my enemy or my friend. Training is key to getting the long-term, thought-out results I truly desire. Like a sailor, we do better when we aim for a distant goal rather than objects right in front of us.
An hour ago, I was at a crossroads. My loins and brain were quickly building up an intense urge for pleasure. I thought I’d try and chronicle the experience. Would I give in? I admit I wanted to. Yet I didn’t want to. By articulating (literally, writing) the pros and cons, I quieted the mob and came through to the sane, quiet place I truly prefer to be, i.e. the place I believe is best for me and those I love.
I have pretty much written this post without mentioning God or my faith in him. Yet, my faith in him is the foundation for what I believe provides the most joy for me and my family. I believe God when he says this life is a blink compared to the eternity that awaits me. I believe that God is indeed good through and through. I believe he answers prayer. I believe he is acutely, intimately aware of all that I am and think. I believe he is the provider of all I have and need.
I see God as my friend. My best friend, really. He is an ever-faithful friend and companion.
One aspect of friendship is having a shared sense of integrity. I don’t hope or expect something of a friendship that I am unwilling to live by privately. If I expect honesty, then I need to be honest. If I desire to be respected, then I need to respect. And so on.
How, then, can I expect anything from, or ask of my Maker if I don’t approach him with the same integrity? If there is something that I sense or believe is wrong for me to do, but I do it anyway, then I am compromising my integrity. And when I do that, I do feel I have cheapened my relationship with God. I say I love him and desire to serve him, but… Ugh, that hurts. I want to be a good friend, and making private donations to the Loin Mob doesn’t bode well for being a good friend.
A sane mind with a clear sense of purpose is essential to overcoming temptation. Few of us can think straight with a mob screaming in our faces. We need to separate from the noise and recollect our purposes. What do I really, truly want and desire? Read any heroic story and you’ll read that their road was fraught with tempting detours, just as ours are. How essential, then, is following a good map in order to reach your destination.
Scripture is a map that leads to a beautiful, fulfilling destination (whoa – that’s a huge understatement; scripture points to the most amazing, most stupendous destination!). Your soul will quietly testify this, whispering in your heart and mind, “Yes, this is what will bring you the joy you seek. Trust God and his map, and trust the Spirit within you to help direct your journey.” That’s the benefit of faith in God the Father, Son, and Spirit in your battle against temptation. And even if you don’t yet know God, use your God-given sense of reason to not just get past the temptations you know will ruin you, but lead you to the person and place of the joy you truly desire.