Lust is real.
In all its forms, lust is a reality for all of us.
Sexual lust seems to be at the top of the powerful forces on this planet. Or at least perhaps in our culture.
Why do I lust? Where do these seemingly out-of-control desires come from? Why is the act of lusting after someone like shooting straight dopamine into my veins? Sometimes I can’t wait to let my mind float into a certain scenario. It boggles my mind. At times, every inch of me is longing for a fix, and it can override my wherewithal.
As a single, celibate Christ-follower in my 40s, I know I’ve come a long way in my journey. Twenty years ago, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I realized that acting out in reckless sexual behavior was leaving me empty. What I thought it would provide wasn’t working. It was, in fact, destroying me. I got serious about Jesus and I stepped away from physical, sexual activity. I wanted to be grounded in God’s truth and not in my own ideas of fulfillment. I’m grateful for God’s protection over me in this aspect of my life.
Even though I’m not engaging in sexual activity these days, I acknowledge that I still have sexual desires and these desires are natural and healthy. I used to think I was wrong in even feeling sexual desire; I had been warped by a lack of understanding about what it means to be sexual, healthy and whole. I know now that feeling sexual desire isn’t sinful, but that initial feeling can still lead to lust. That is a struggle I deal with on occasion, so I need to stay vigilant and self-aware.
I’ve come to the realization that wherever these lusts and motivations come from are due to my desperate desire for the Garden (Genesis 2-3). My longing for fulfillment is inherent in all of humanity. When I read about the story God is writing, I see that His design and intent for our existence is full of light and rich in love. Fulfillment can be found in true community, friendship, family, affection, wholeness, consummation, creativity, joy, delight, and humor. God’s perfect garden was set up with a banqueting table for all of us–a table where absolutely nothing was withheld. We all have a place at the table–a place of belonging, security, divine purpose and significance. It’s a place we can fully understand each other, and give and receive love freely. Each one of our longings is satisfied in God, in each other, and in His presence.
But that’s not our present reality. As believers, we know how the story goes. We were completely cut off from the divine ideal. We find ourselves scattered and alone in dark, unfamiliar territory. Now, we are frantically trying to fill the core deficits that have resulted from being severed from God’s holy ideal. Here on earth we set our tables with what we think will fulfill us and make us whole. We rely on people, possessions, positions, power, and perceptions for fulfillment. We have become fearful, greedy and selfish in the process. We are desperate to achieve an Eden ideal. Our attempts are completely insufficient.
And to add insult to injury, we are submerged in a culture whose attempts to fill these voids are superficial and false. We are falling for this hook, line and sinker.
Popular culture teaches that one cannot be whole without being healthily sexual, which is true, but not in the way our culture indicates. Our culture generally thinks of sexuality as the physical act of sex…. This is a lie. I know many people having sex who are not fulfilled, healthy and whole; instead they use sex as a crutch. One can have lots of sex and still lack real love and wholeness. It’s a false fulfillment.
For many of us, true intimacy has lost its meaning– it’s been reduced to solely engaging in physical sexual acts. Our bodies, specifically our genitalia, cannot carry all that sexuality encompasses. Sexuality is so much more: love, community, communion, family, friendship, affection, creativity, joy, delight, humor…
I’m not having genital sex, but I feel my understanding of what sexuality is has been broadened to the place where I know my sexuality is in full bloom. My sexuality is engaged when I love my nieces and nephew, when I create a watercolor painting, when I care for my mother who is now a widow, when I cook a meal for my friends, when I laugh so hard that I almost pee my pants. I am whole and my life is rich because I listen to God’s voice and He tells me the truth about who I am. I am a delight in His eyes and only He has the ability to fill these deep core deficits in my soul. If I expect sex or another human being to fill these needs I will always be disappointed.
Karl Rahner, a German priest and theologian, said something to the effect that “there is no such thing in this life as fully consummate joy. We live in an unfinished symphony.”
Theologian Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says “We live in the interim, the tension of waiting for our final consummation… we need not overcome this tension for happiness, but to make our peace with it. We make a stoic acceptance that we cannot have it all in this life.”
Here is the deal. We live in an unfinished symphony– we need to come to the conclusion that all our needs will not be met here in this continuum. Everything we are longing for can’t be filled sufficiently now. We fool ourselves if we believe we can have it all on this side of eternity. Instead, we stand in the Hope of what is to come. Can we live in this tension? Does that knowledge alone help us find comfort in His promises and not rely so much on gratification now?
Whether you are married or single or whatever your orientation is, we are ALL in the same boat and we are, in so many ways, miserable because we can’t be filled sufficiently. As we seek after Jesus–the ultimate healer and provider–let’s remember that everything else will fall short of His promises. We can allow the spirit to fill us so we can live selfless lives that provide fruit to nourish and sustain the next generation.
Much of what I’ve written about here has come from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser; if you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend it.
Other recommended books that have helped in my journey include: