It has been said that in sexual addiction we exchange intimacy for intensity. One of our deepest and most fundamental needs is intimacy, but we settle for the intensity of a sexual thrill, a rush, a pseudo connect, a dalliance wearing a mask of intimacy. We have gone to bathe in the desert sand, deluding ourselves that it is the beach. Here again, we have sought to satisfy a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. And it has not worked.
God is after intimacy. We are longing to know and be known. To see into another, to go deep into another. And to have another see into us and go there with us. Just as in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit know each other, love each other, give preference to each other, and give themselves fully to each other; so we, too, were made for deep inter-connectedness, for true, authentic, and lifelong intimacy.
Isn’t there another way? We mentioned in a previous post that the final deception concerning the desert is that it is avoidable. And we said that we can only learn to love in the desert. Why is this? If we are serious about ridding our lives of lust, then we must grow in love to love. A man cannot lust and love at the same time. Love is the antithesis of lust. And love is the antidote to lust. Where you continue to struggle with lust, you do not need mere eradication of lust, you need love. This is purity. Remember, purity is not just the absence of sin—that would only create in you a pure void. Purity means becoming 100% the essence of who you were created to be. Not one thing more, not one thing less. And you, being a creature made in the image of a loving God, were designed for love. As someone has pointed out: You were made by love, in love, for love.
So how do we grow to receive God’s love, to abide in God’s love, and to love with God’s love? In the desert. There is no love this side of heaven that does not include suffering. Agape love (unconditional, selfless love) cannot come without suffering. The traditional marriage vows speak to this:
In the Name of God, I _______, take you, _______, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Without suffering, our capacity to love would remain the weak, wimpy stuff the world calls love, that which we fall into and out of, that which we stumble upon, that which comes and goes. We are all guilty of this kind of “loving”. We ought not call it love at all. The desert refines our immature loves. It demands not flowery blossoms above ground so much as roots that drive deep to living and sure waters. The desert demands we draw from the true Lover in whose image we’re made, from the true Vine—He alone who is Love.
In the beginning, Adam was given Eve to love. When she was assaulted by the serpent’s falsehoods, Adam stood by. He failed to love her as he was made to do. Why was the tree put in the middle of the Garden? Why was the tempter allowed in? Because without freedom there is no love. Adam was free to intervene (or intercede!) or to acquiesce. Author and teacher Christopher West speculates that had Adam stepped between the serpent and Eve it would have cost him his life. Maybe so. But Adam was fashioned by God to defend and protect woman. He was made with the capacity to express his love through suffering and sacrifice if need be. This is part of the calling of every man. But he stood by.
What about you? Are you willing to suffer for your present or future spouse? What about for your sons or your daughters? What about your sisters or brothers? Are you willing to suffer for Christ? Love beckons. His love beckons from the Cross. He knows. Where the first Adam was silent, the second Adam stepped between His Bride and the serpent. And it cost Him His life. In the words of Paul, He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). You were made for this.
Where lust takes, love gives. Where lust demands, love offers. Where lust is all about now, love is about forever. Where lust uses, love sacrifices. Where lust looks at, love sees. Where lust is selfish, love is self-sacrificing. Consider 1 Corinthians 13 and what it has to say about love. Consider how in each description, lust is just the opposite.
What if it is true – this life is a desert compared with the Eden we were originally created for? What if there is always going to be a level of dissatisfaction in us, an ache for something more? Even in our best moments, we know it is temporary. The world’s response is to grasp at all the pleasure we can get—whether money, success, fame, control, or sex. Not so with the brothers of Christ. He has redeemed us, made us new creations, able to stand amidst the current of selfish grasping, able to stand offering ourselves selflessly to Love’s greater call.
No servant is greater than his master.
What if sexual temptation harasses you, hounds you, pursues you? What if it torments you? Crucify your flesh—join your sufferings with the sufferings of Christ on His cross. He will bear the torment with you and for you. His way is love. He is teaching you how to love. He is teaching you that you were made not for lust, you were made for love—coming into you, abiding within you . . . and flowing out from you.